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NOTICE:  Temporary site restrictions may apply due to winter weather creating unsafe road and sidewalks conditions.

From hiking & biking to fishing & birding, Moraine Hills State Park is a recreational paradise in northeast Illinois. Located three miles south of the city of McHenry in McHenry County, about half of the state park's 2,200 acres is composed of wetlands and lakes. The diverse habitats support an abundance of plants and a great variety of wildlife to enjoy along ten-plus miles of trails. McHenry Dam State Park is located along the east side of the Fox River and overlooks McHenry Lock & Dam. The river attracts anglers, waterfowl, eagles, birders and photographers alike.

In 1939, the State of Illinois made the initial McHenry Dam State Park land acquisition of 15 acres on the east bank of the Fox River. Major acquisition of the Lake Defiance area began in 1971, and construction of park facilities took place in the spring of 1975. The present Moraine Hills State Park opened in October 1976.​ The park name is derived from a geologic formation known as a moraine, which is an accumulation of boulders, stones and other debris deposited by a glacier.

The 48-acre Lake Defiance, located near the center of the park, is one of the few glacial lakes in Illinois that has remained largely undeveloped, maintaining a near-natural condition.

The waters and wetlands of Moraine Hills are home to abundant wildlife; more than 200 species of birds have been identified at the park. Fishing is available on both Lake Defiance and on the Fox River. The McHenry Dam area provides access to the Fox River, and a fishing pier accessible to visitors with disabilities is available. More than 10 miles of trails make Moraine Hills popular for hikers, skiers and cyclists, and provide one of the park's main recreation features.

The concession stand at the McHenry Dam provides refreshments, bait and tackle, and boat rentals for both the Fox River and Lake Defiance. ​

Park Hours change with the seasons.

  • Moraine Hills State Park and McHenry Dam State Park are day use sites only.
  • Park Hours are posted as you enter the parks.
  • You should always plan to arrive back to your vehicle 15 minutes prior to sunset.

Seasonal Closings:

Moraine Hills State Park is CLOSED for the Statewide firearm deer season the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before Thanksgiving and the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Thanksgiving.  For more information, check out the online Hunter Fact Sheet*** During this time the McHenry Dam Area will be OPEN to the public for hiking, biking, and fishing opportunities. ***

Moraine Hills State Park and the Mchenry Dam will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

*** Seasonal weather events such as high winds storms, flooding, and snow fall may delay park openings. ***

For current park hours and closures, please call the main office at 815-384-1624 and then press 6.


Park Information:

Northeastern Illinois

1510 S. River Rd






Moraine Hills site map

Other Parks in Illinois:

Map of Illinois DNR Regions State Parks in Northwestern IllinoisState Parks in Northeastern IllinoisState Parks in East Central IllinoisState Parks in West Central IllinoisState Parks in Southern Illinois