Illinois has a total of 86,076 miles of rivers. But are they safe to swim in? The answer depends on where you’re taking a dip. The state offers a lot of fascinating swimming opportunities, but you have to know where to go and what animals to keep an eye out for. Follow along as we reveal the top dangerous animals in Illinois’s lakes and rivers.
Are Illinois’s Waterways Safe for Swimming?
To swim or not to swim! It’s a question new visitors find themselves asking when learning about Illinois’s lakes and rivers. The answer isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution; you have to choose whether or not to swim based on locations, conditions, and other variables.
In other words, swimming in Illinois’s rivers can be dangerous. But people go swimming there all of the time! It’s all about knowing what to look out for and where it’s safe to take a dip.
Have you heard of Fox River? This spot has several parks and beaches along its path, making it a family-friendly location. Always check current conditions and regulations before taking a dip.
Here are a few more popular swimming spots that include Illinois’s lakes and rivers:
- Lake Michigan Beaches
- Lake Le-Aqua-Na State Park
- Centennial Beach
- Rend Lake
- Clinton Lake
- Carlyle Lake
- Chain O’Lakes State Park
- Kinkaid Lake
- Starved Rock State Park
- Illinois Beach State Park
- Silver Springs State Park
- Burden Falls in Shawnee National Forest
- Bell Smith Springs in Shawnee National Forest
- Kincaid Lake Spillway in Shawnee National Forest
- Independence Grove
- Fish Lake Beach Camping Resort
- Kayak Morris
- Three Oaks Recreation Area
- West Beach at Indiana Dunes National Park
You can even find spots to go scuba diving! The Swinging Bridge on the Illinois River is a popular scuba diving spot with deep water.
Swimming Safety Tips
After researching Illinois’s lakes and rivers to find a good spot to swim, go the extra mile by practicing these safety tips:
- Talk to local authorities about safe swimming areas.
- Enter water cautiously.
- Dive only in designated areas.
- Avoid swimming near storm drains, contaminated water, or strong currents.
- Ensure children wear life vests.
- Teach kids safe swimming techniques.
- Keep a phone nearby for emergencies.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
Now, let’s look at the creatures you might encounter swimming in and around Illinois’s lakes and rivers.
Dangerous Animals in and Around Illinois’s Lakes and Rivers
Here is a list of the most dangerous animals found in and around Illinois’s lakes and rivers:
- Kissing Bugs
- River Otters
- Black Bears
- Centipedes (that sting)
- Timber Rattlesnake
- Brown Recluse Spider
- Black Widow Spider
Kissing bugs are found crawling around Illinois’s lakes and rivers, and these bugs can transmit dangerous diseases. To prevent exposure, avoid sleeping in areas where these bugs are found, and use bug nets treated with insecticides.
How painful is a centipede bite? It depends on how hard they pinch you. Centipedes can pinch you with a pair of claws positioned behind their head. The good news is that their jaws are relatively weak and can rarely break human skin. If a bite does occur, individuals may experience swelling at the site and pain similar to a bee sting.
Why are river otters on this list? Because these creatures aren’t just cute, they’re powerful too. There’s proof that gangs of river otters can take on a crocodile and win. You definitely don’t want to get on their bad side.
River otters are defensive if threatened. They have super sharp teeth and incredibly strong jaws. Avoid disturbing the otters when swimming in Illinois’s lakes and rivers, no matter how cute they seem.
Belonging to the canine family, coyotes pose a potential threat if they’re sick, injured, or used to being fed by people. They may also target pets and small livestock. Avoid feeding any wild animal and always maintain distance.
Black bears pose a risk if startled or caring for their young. There’s nothing quite like the rage of a Mama bear defending her cubs. Avoid a close encounter by being bear smart. Keep campsites clean and carry bear spray.
Scorpions have a venomous sting that is used for hunting/defense. The world is full of all different sizes of scorpions ranging from itty bitty to humongous ones. Thankfully, Illinois is home to the smaller plains scorpion and the bark scorpion, both of which like to hide in rocks and crevices. Avoid direct contact, and check clothing in scorpion-infested areas.
Watch out! Timber rattlesnakes are venomous and native to the eastern U.S. Wear protective clothing, like long pants and snake-proof boots while walking in their habitat. If you’re concerned about snakes living by your campsite, there are methods for repelling them. Bites are dangerous and need immediate medical attention.
Brown Recluse Spider
The brown recluse spider is highly venomous. You can identify them by violin-shaped markings. Bites can cause serious wounds, but sometimes they’re just uncomfortable. Here’s what a brown recluse spider bite looks like. Avoid disturbing them and always shake off your clothes after a hike.
Black Widow Spider
The infamous black widow spider has potent venom. This spider species is non-aggressive, but they will bite in self-defense. Be cautious in dark, secluded areas. Bites cause severe pain and require medical attention.
Last on our list of dangerous animals around Illinois’s lakes and rivers, we have cougars. These wild cats usually leave people alone, but they pose a potential threat if sick or threatened. Attacks are rare but fatal. Hike in groups, and make noise.
Unsure whether you’re looking at a mountain lion or a cougar? Both big cats are basically the same species, with minor differences based on location.
Summary of 10 Dangerous Animals Found in Illinois’s Lakes and Rivers
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