Salt Fork River Forest Preserve (Homer Lake)
by David Scott
http://www.ccfpd.org/saltfork.htm (Salt Fork River Forest Preserve website)
The trails at Homer Lake offer an interesting alternative running venue close to Champaign-Urbana. The land is quite flat, but there is a good mix of prairie and woodland, and pleasant views across the water. Getting there is usually easy (see below for special instructions as of June 2002).
From Urbana, follow Washington St. east all the way to the park (turns into County Highway 14; turn right just after crossing the bridge at the top of the park to reach the main entrance; 10 miles east of Rte. 130). From I-74 (Ogden exit), follow Ill. 49 three miles south to County Highway 14, turn right, and the turn for the park entrance is reached in about 1 mile.
Park maps can be picked up at several trailheads. A good place to start is the Outdoor Recreation Center (turn left inside the main entrance and follow the road to its end). From here a tour of the trails including the prairie to the west of the lake, around the outside trail and across the road to Collins Pond, around this and back to the main park, then along the river, and including going out to the river overlook in Flicker Woods, then the trails to the north of the park office and finishing by the Sand Beach Cove Trail and around the south end of the lake, amounts to about 10.5 miles. But there are obviously many shorter variations possible. The trails are generally easy to follow; the one difficult point is finding Collins Pond: once emerged onto the road south of the main park, turn left and go across the bridge and up the hill the entrance is hidden in trees on the right opposite a barn. This is one of the most scenic spots in the park and well worth the diversion.
Breakfast: Lincoln Family Restaurant in Ogden (just off I-74 next to the gas station).