Trophy fisherman Walter Krause, who has 15 years' experience on the Illinois Muskie Tournament Trail and the Pro Musky Tournament Trail, takes up to two anglers aboard his private boat for a guided trip through two fish-filled Illinois lakes. Whether plumbing the depths of Cedar Lake for striper or pursuing Kinkaid Lake—one of the top trophy-muskie lakes in Illinois—for oversize bass, muskies, and walleyes, participants benefit from Walter’s 46 years of experience and on-board depth finders and GPS. During the course of each customized trip, visitors learn how to track fish movements, how to properly hold rods, and how to train a wall-mounted singing fish to bait other fish with its seductive crooning. Walter provides each angler with life jackets, bait, tackle, and rods, although participants must bring their own fishing licenses, lunches, and weather-appropriate clothing.
At the turn of the 19th century, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out up the Missouri River to explore the vast, uncharted reaches of the Louisiana Purchase. They had it a lot harder than the guests of Missouri River Excursions. Today, tracing Lewis and Clark's route (marked with many historical plaques) is about as easy as outdoor exploration gets: just sit down and float. Staff load guests and canoes, kayaks, or rafts onto a shuttle to New Haven or Washington, where they disembark to drift gently with the current down to Klondike Park. Sandbars offer natural stopping points for fishing or picnicking.
Missouri River Excursions' guides can also set up more advanced journeys. They'll arrange itineraries lasting up to three days?marked by stays at quaint riverfront hotels or campgrounds?or lead fishing excursions to catch the modern-day descendants of the fish a bored Lewis once trained to do synchronized-swimming routines.
With just 2,000 square feet and only three bedrooms, The Bourbon Lodge surrounds guests in the coziness and attentiveness of a bed and breakfast, but its small size belies the many adventures surrounding it. Situated on a hill overlooking 300 private acres—from which the logs came for its timber frame—the lodge connects guests to dense forest and two spring-fed lakes for activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, canoeing, and horseback riding. On hunting trips, guides supply hunters with bird-dogs, guns, and ammo to hunt for game ranging from turkey to deer, depending on the season. They also help hunters sharpen their marksmanship with 15 stations of clay shooting. For fishermen, the lodge's staff maintains rental boats for unguided fishing trips. The lodge's seclusion also caters to those seeking relaxation, with amenities such as a hammock and alarm clocks that hit their own snooze buttons. Come meal times, the dining area fills with aromas from dishes such as fresh omelets, fried fish, and rotisserie chicken.
Though its calm flow and smaller volume make it an ideal venue for kayaking, it's not unusual for paddlers traversing the Little Piney River to go an entire trip without seeing another human being. Unlike destination rivers choked by tourists carted in by the busload, the Little Piney offers serenity in its seclusion, whether for lazy floats along its banks or fishing. Blue Heron Boatworks caters to all aspects of a successful kayaking trip, from shuttling guests to their starting points to politely encouraging the river to reverse its flow for visitors who drop their paddles on the shore.
Meramec Valley Campground & RV Park brings people closer to nature via hikes along scenic trails and float trips down the glistening Meramec River. Groups can also cool off in an Olympic-size swimming pool, play mini golf, or visit area attractions such as Onondaga Cave or Six Flags amusement park. Amenities including laundry stations and a lodge with WiFi and satellite TV keep visitors comfortable.