Poplar Camp Beach | Cedar Lake

Lindsay + Tim Stockhecke


There is something undeniably special about Poplar Camp Beach. With its slight incline leading to the sandy waterfront, the candy apple red lifeguard stand, lush treeline view, and occasional fisherman cruising by slowly you can’t help but relax and enjoy the simplicity of it all.

That being said, I have found there to be an unusual stigma around lake beaches and the idea that they somehow are not, in fact, beaches at all. I am not here to debate the legitimacy of lake beaches (spoiler alert, they are by definition) I am here for those willing to stand in the face of nay-sayers and enjoy the beauty of Poplar Camp Beach, located at Cedar Lake in Jackson County, Illinois.

Less than a twenty-minute drive from Murphysboro Mainstreet, Cedar Lake is 1,750 reservoir that provides recreational opportunities including hiking trails, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing as well as the city-maintained Poplar Camp Beach. Over the years we have frequented this beach and have always found it to be quaint, family-friendly, and slightly nostalgic. Open for the season Memorial Day Weekend, it is the perfect way to kick off summer.

While some local beaches have free access this one is gated when closed (hours of operation below) and carries an admission fee of $2.50 for those over four years and older. A great option for those planning to visit several times through the year (like us) can opt for ten visits pass for $20, or twenty visits pass for $35.

They recently added the ability to take cash or card for entry as well as at the concession stand, making it easier for those times you forget to stop by the ATM. Speaking of the concession stand, they do have some drinks, snacks, candy and frozen treats available for purchase but are limited beyond that so we always opt to bring our own food along. Snag a boxed lunch from the drive-thru at Faye or Cutting Edge Catering and you are set!

There are shaded and grassy areas above and around the sand as well as a few picnic tables providing a variety of setup options. Also at the concession stand visitors are able to rent a shady umbrella for $10. Having enjoyed this beach for over a decade the shallowness is great for younger children and there is a designated area for larger inflatables and those looking to relax away from the more splash-happy people.

There hours of operation are as follows:

Wednesday – Friday 9:30-5:30pm

Saturday-Sunday 9:30-7:00pm


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