Carlyle Lake over the Coles Creek Recreation Area
|Location||Clinton / Fayette / Bond counties, Illinois, U.S.|
|Primary inflows||Kaskaskia River, North Fork|
|Primary outflows||Kaskaskia River|
|Basin countries||United States|
|Max. length||15 miles (24.1 km)|
|Max. width||3.5 miles (5.6 km)|
|Surface area||26,000 acres (105.2 km2)|
|Average depth||11 feet (3.4 m)|
|Max. depth||35 feet (10.7 m)|
|Shore length1||85 miles (136.8 km)|
|Surface elevation||445 feet (135.6 m)|
|1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.|
Carlyle Lake is a 26,000 acres (105.2 km2) reservoir largely located in Clinton County, Illinois, with smaller portions of the lake within Bond and Fayette counties. It is the largest man-made lake in Illinois, and the largest lake wholly contained within the state.
The lake was created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which built Carlyle Dam across the Kaskaskia River, thereby creating a reservoir filled to a mean elevation of 446 feet (136 m) above sea level. The region of Southern Illinois where Carlyle Lake now stands is relatively flat, and the lake is relatively shallow.
As part of the lake's planning process, 600 graves were exhumed from seven small rural cemeteries, and 69 oil wells were capped. Construction of the dam began on October 18, 1958, and the reservoir's planned expanse slowly filled with water. The lake was dedicated on June 3, 1967.
The lake today
Grouped around the lake are the Dam West, Dam East, Coles Creek, Boulder and Coles Creek Recreation Areas operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area, South Shore State Park, and the Carlyle Lake Wildlife Management Area operated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Carlyle Lake is managed for flood control purposes, which means that the lake level fluctuates sharply with the seasons. Creeks that flow into the lake sometimes alternate between being three-mile-long estuaries and being mud flats. For this reason, it is not an ideal lake for some forms of shoreline recreation, such as swimming.
Carlyle Lake is used by many for boating, particularly sailing, and fishing. Many use the lake to catch channel catfish, flatheads, largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, and bluegill. The bass scene is particularly lively, with several tagged-bass and catch-and-release championships annually.
The lake is separated into two unequal parts by a 3.5-mile-long (6 km) railroad embankment, and five bridges, carrying the tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
The lake continues to be managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The lake is the subject of Sufjan Stevens' song, "Carlyle Lake" on The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras from the Illinois Album.