WELDON SPRINGS STATE PARK
WELDON SPRINGS STATE PARK
4734 Weldon Springs Rd
Clinton, Illinois 61727
Lying just southeast of Clinton in DeWitt County, Weldon Springs State Recreation Area is a 550-acre park for all seasons. Weldon Springs' recreational agenda is among the most comprehensive in the state park system, offering recreational opportunities year-round. During the milder seasons, you are invited to fish, boat, picnic, camp, hike, and view wildlife. Or, you might want to pitch horseshoes at the park's tournament-quality horseshoe pits. When the snow flies, hardier outdoors persons not only continue many of the warmer weather pursuits, but add sledding and tobogganing on a one-eighth mile hill, ice fishing and cross-country skiing to the itinerary of their visit.
Purchased by Judge Lawrence Weldon before the Civil War, this site was opened to area residents and youth clubs for picnics for many years. In 1900, Judge Weldon leased the property to the Weldon Springs Company. 150 shares were sold to the public at $50 per share to raise the capital needed to establish an annual assembly known as a Chautauqua. Over the next twenty years, improvements included a dam, bridges, trails, a boathouse, a bathhouse, a diving tower, a pavilion, and an auditorium.
For ten days each summer from 1901 to 1921, area residents gathered at the site to hear some of the best public speakers and entertainers of the day. Representing every field of interest, programs were presented for the entertainment, education, and "moral elevation" of the participants. At a price of $1.50 for a season ticket, as many as 325 families camped for the entire term, enjoying the opportunity to socialize with their neighbors. A contemporary account described the event as "forty acres of water, tents, and teams."
Each summer, farmers converged on the site with a 10-day supply of camping necessities - a rug made of old carpets, cots and folding beds, oil burners with ovens, an old dresser, folding chairs and rockers. An ironing board, included in the list of necessities, served its intended purpose and doubled as a table, buffet, and counter. Food items that required refrigeration were placed in water chests that were cooled by water from the springs. The temporary tent city also included a grocery, dining hall, popcorn wagon, police tent, post office, information center, telephone station, check room and physician's tent. The steam launch Columbia made trips on the lake.
The WCTU sponsored a kindergarten tent to allow parents the opportunity to attend lectures without their children at a cost of $.30 per day or $1.50 for the full ten days. Three sessions of programming were offered each day - morning, afternoon and evening.
Political speakers engaged in debates discussing a variety of issues from which party had caused the Panic of 1893 to whether the country should hold on to the Phillippines. Those who attended heard the southern viewpoint on the Civil War and Reconstruction and the story of Count Alexander Lochwitzky's imprisonment and exile by the Russian czar. Former President Taft, House Speaker Champ Clark, Vice Presidents James S. Sherman and Adlai Stevenson I, senators, governors, and judges all made appearances.
Most popular were William Jennings Bryan and evangelist Sam Jones. Reverend Billy Sunday was also a regular guest. Female speakers included Helen Keller and Carrie Nation, both making return visits.
The rise of the automobile and the motion picture spelled the demise of the annual Chautauqua Assembly, but the site continued to enrich the lives of area residents. The Judge's son, Lincoln Weldon, bequeathed the original 40 acres along with an additional 10 acres to the City of Clinton to be known as Weldon Springs Park in 1936. The state of Illinois accepted ownership in 1948.
Named by Family Circle magazine to be one of the "Top Twenty Campgrounds in America", Weldon Springs' campground offers a quiet and friendly atmosphere for a relaxing camping experience.
The traditional Class A campground has 77 campsites with electricity, water service, vehicular access, sanitary dumping station, shower building, cooking grills, picnic tables, pit toilets and playground equipment. Weldon Springs? campground is open year-round; the shower building closes November 1 and reopens in the spring. Reservations are accepted for dates between May 1 and September 30 for ten Class A sites and one Class C. Five of the reservable Class A sites are pull-thru. Areas for tent, backpack, large group and youth camping are also available. Primitive backpack campsites are located along Salt Creek. Please call ahead for conditions, as these sites could be flooded in spring.
Black Locust Group Camp can accommodate up to 300 campers at one time. Long Point is for youth groups only and can accommodate up to 90 campers. This group tent camping area is lakeside and located near the main campground. Amenities at Long Point include a shelter, water, fire rings and picnic tables.
Disabled campers are also served. Three campsites designed for special needs offer a large hard-surfaced pad. Privies and water are easily accessible.
Alcohol is not allowed in the tent camping area, primitive backpack sites, and the Black Locust and Long Point Group Camps.
A 29-acre, spring-fed lake with two miles of shoreline dotted with bank fishing platforms and a boat launching ramp provide anglers with easy access to a fish population boasting sizeable largemouth bass, catfish, bullhead, crappie, bluegill, and sunfish. There are size and catch limits for some species: Largemouth Bass - 15" limit, 1 daily; Channel Cat - 6 daily. Only electric boat motors may be used. Fishermen may rent boats at the Concession Stand.