Carlyle Lake – Dam West

A number of sail boats in the marina at Carlyle Lake.  The boats are reflecting in the water.

Dan and I recently spent four nights at a nearby, newly found favorite campground. The campground is called Dam West, and it is located at Carlyle Lake near Carlyle, Illinois. Carlyle Lake is known as a premier location for sailing.

Here’s why we like it:

1. Close to Home

The Dam West campground at Carlyle Lake is only 77.8 miles from home. Yep! That means we can get there in 1 hour and 20 minutes tops and … on one tank of gas! And, as Dan mentioned, we don’t have to worry about filling up in Illinois where gas is considerably higher than in Missouri. Sorry, Illinois.

2. It’s a COE campground

COE stands for Army Corps of Engineers. That means us seniors with the Lifetime National Parks Pass get to camp there with a 50% discount. Did somebody say DISCOUNT? Yep!

3. It’s a COE campground

Didn’t somebody just say that? Yep! But here’s why I am repeating myself. Not only are COE campgrounds cheap – or perhaps I should say cost efficient – they are – without exception that I have found – to be clean, spacious, well-maintained, and beautiful. Sometimes a less costly deal means compromise. Not here. And at Dam West, there are full hook-ups. It just doesn’t get any better! We paid $13 per night.

Ford Expedition and Micro Lite trailer at a campsite.
Dam West – Site 79

4. The Bike Trail

At the top of the campground is a bike trail. The literature says it is a ten mile trail, but I think the trail is longer. For one, there is a loop you can ride which goes into the town of Carlyle. That loop is six miles plus.

A suspension bridge over a river.
Bike Trail to Town

You can also ride in the other direction, across the dam on the trail, follow the trail, then some roads, then the trail picks back up. At this point, the bike trail is a crushed gravel or limestone surface. We rode out this way for 7.5 miles, then we turned around. I wanted to keep going, but dear Dan was worried about our e-bike battery.

The bike trail in the country.
Carlyle Lake Bike Trail

Figuring in the miles back and the ride the day before, we were sitting at 26+ miles on the battery. And we were facing a headwind. Dan promised me next time, we’d start with full batteries and would ride farther. We hadn’t realized the trail would just keep going and going. Am I going to hold him to his promise? Yep!

5. The City of Carlyle

Just a short distance away is the city of Carlyle. Here, there is a Walmart, numerous stores and restaurants. The town is either a short bike ride or an even shorter car drive away. In the summer, we could ride our bikes to the DQ for an ice cream treat.

Or we could eat at a local diner, browse at a thrift store, visit the local library or eat at a fast food chain. All we did this trip was ride our bikes through the town. Who knows? There may be even more to explore than what I have listed.

6. Eldon Hazlet State Park

Pawnee Trail

About six miles away from the Dam West campground is Eldon Hazlet State Park. This state park also has a large campground, but our visit was to check out one of its hiking trails.

Normally, we would have chosen a 2.5 or 3 mile trail, but I have a foot that’s been complaining about how much Pickleball I’ve been playing. So, we kept it short and chose the one mile Pawnee Trail.

7. Pickleball Court at the City Park

The bike trail to town passes the city park. Here there are tennis courts, and one of the tennis courts has been converted to a Pickleball court. Of course, this time I had to pass on the Pickleball because of that dang foot pain, but will we be bringing our Pickleball paddles and balls next time we visit? Yep!

8. Free Little Library

Free little library at the shower house.

Wouldn’t you know it – we get those nice reading lamps installed in our Micro Lite and what happens? I leave my two books at home. When packing up, I was debating which books to bring. In the process of deciding, I set down book number one and book number two. And then my mind went on to something else. So, at bedtime on the evening of Day 1 of our little trip, I realized I had brought along book number zero.

But . . . the next morning, Dan came back from the bathroom with an extra big smile on his face. He had discovered the little free library right next to the bathroom. He was so happy to tell me, and we walked right up there right away. And – the little, free library had not one, but two of my favorite authors. Who needs a lottery ticket to feel like they hit it big? Not me!

9. Laundry

Now, just so you don’t think I’ve gone totally bonkers, laundry is definitely not on my list of fun things to do. However…if we are gone from home long enough, the day will come when try as we might, we just can’t shove any more dirty clothes into that tiny little closet in the camper. This is our day of reckoning, and it will cost many quarters.

But being able to get the laundry done without having to leave the campground is one of many tiny joys in the life of a camper. We did not use the laundry facility this time as we were only there for four days. However, it’s nice to know should Dan ever need it, it’s there. Just kidding. I do laundry, too.

10. Visitor Center

This is another attraction at Dam West we didn’t use, but only because it wasn’t open. At this time of the year, the visitor center is only open on weekends. I would like to find out more about the bike trail as well as other offerings in the area. I know lots of information is available online, but I like to study paper maps. And I saw some hiking trails while biking, but I couldn’t quite remember the names of the trails. All is good though, as this will be something new to explore on our next visit.

It’s always nice to have a reason to go back to a favorite campground, but in this case, we have at least ten reasons to return. And yes, we’ve already booked it for next year.

Do you have a favorite campground or a place you like to visit again and again? What makes it your favorite?

Carlyle Lake Marina

Bonus Section for Campers

Water hook up with two out-flowing faucets

After four years of camping with our travel trailer, we are still learning new things.

This is the water hook-up at Dam West. When we connected our hose and lifted the handle, the water came out with great water pressure.

The only issue is the water came out of the middle connection (where the hose is not connected in the photo.) The hose could not be connected to this middle faucet.

Here are the steps to correctly connect the water hookup:

  1. Connect the hose to the outer hookup, as shown in the picture.
  2. Pull down on the outer metal rim of the “middle” connection, then lift the pump handle.
  3. You’re welcome, and Enjoy your stay!


  1. This is getting to be way beyond my comprehension already, Betty. Our fave place to camp close to home when we had our motorhome was Moose Mountain Provincial Park. The nearest business Center is a town named Carlyle, on Carlyle lake … 72 miles from here! Isn’t that crazy? You caught some great photos and, as always I loved your description of “your” Carlyle Lake. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my gosh! This is CRAZY! But so fun! It’s even spelled the same. For some reason, we didn’t camp at Dam West until now, but I think it may be our favorite campground close to home. I appreciate your compliments about the photos and the description. Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Betty- I was drawn to your blog by the photo you posted of Carlyle Lake marina. When I read your post, I realized that we came into site 79 and just finished our 5 day stay, probably right after you left. I have similar photos of the marina and the calm water reflecting their masts. We too are about an hour drive away and have stayed at three of the campgrounds around Carlyle Lake. It is truly beautiful with a lot of things to explore. Happy travels to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! We really liked site 79, but really, all the sites are nice. The other campgrounds look really nice, too (we passed by two of them riding our bikes), but I think we may stick with Dam West. We just love the bike trail. Thanks for your comment, and Happy Travels to you, too!


  3. You are such a hoot! I smiled all the way through this, and while I will not be driving to Dam West and Carlyle, IL, it was fun learning about it. I took a Google drive through downtown and spotted an old post office. On a whim, checked it out on the Living New Deal, and yes, it was a New Deal post office, and contains 3 bas relief sculptures! You should visit the PO and see them on your next trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are a wonderful follower. Not only do you read the post, you delve deeper! Thank you for your interest and enthusiasm. We will definitely check out that Post Office on our next visit. The bike trail info mentions a street with a number of “historic homes” on it. We rode down that street but didn’t stop as we were riding. When I mentioned there was probably more to explore than I mentioned, I was thinking of these historical places. We are booked for next April, and we hope to book again for a longer stay next August. I look forward to discovering even more about this place. Hope you have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! You are welcome. I am glad you learned something. I use the Recreation.Gov app on my phone. I like it because you can search by state and campgrounds with full hook ups. We often plan around those campgrounds. Enjoy your day!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t have a favorite place to camp, because we don’t camp LOL. Your reasons for liking this campground are good. We will be maki g a return trip to an Airbnb in Chincoteague VA next year that we have stayed at several times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have seen the Free Little Libraries at several campgrounds, but not all. Having them at campgrounds is a great idea! Thanks for your comment, and have a great week!


    • Yes, very popular. The state park has a sailing association headquartered there. You can also rent kayaks or canoes, and I saw a poster suggesting several waterways to explore in the area. I am sure the Visitor Center has more information on all this. A few times, we kayaked in the morning at other locations, and I loved it. I’d like to do that again. Thanks for your comment, David, and have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You now have me on a mission, to find COE parks near where we live for the occasional, “I can’t stand being in the house for another minute” and need to be in Elvira. I’ve found a few and hopefully we’ll get to check them out sometime in the near future. Have a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you have the National Parks Senior Lifetime pass, camping is 50% off at most COE campgrounds. Also, I use the app where you can filter – for example, I search by state and then full hook ups. There is also a Facebook group for COE camping. If someone posts about a really good COE campground, I’ll mark it as a favorite. We love COE campgrounds! I hope you have a great day, too!


  6. I am so happy for you that you have a great campground so close to home. You can drive over there anytime you feel the urge. That is great. 🙂
    What a wonderful find, that little library. So good you have a book to read after all, you just got the niffy lights next to your bed. HA

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Charla! We can drive over there anytime we want – as long as we have a reservation! It is a very popular campground. And yes, I am so glad I found a book to read. Reading is one of my joys in life! Hope you are having a great week!


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