Winter has me feeling nostalgic for the halcyon days of summer, when my dad and I would make the long drive up to the Chain O’ Lakes in Northern Illinois to rent a rowboat and go fishing.
The Chain O’ Lakes, including Fox Lake, Grass Lake, Lake Marie, and Channel Lake, near Antioch, has offered summer visitors a unique blend of sporting and entertainment since the late nineteenth century.
Possibly the most famous establishment on the Chain is Blarney Island, “Key West of the Midwest,” a bar located a mile offshore in Grass Lake, where over a decade worth of bras, hats, and business cards used to hang from the ceiling.
But the fond memories of my childhood lay a little to the east, at C.J. Smith Resort. Don’t let the name fool you, C.J. Smith’s is not much more than a boat rental near the shore of tiny Spring Lake that looks like it hasn’t changed since the 1950s. At least it hasn’t changed in my lifetime.
If you are looking to rent large, gas guzzling speedboats, look somewhere else. C.J. Smith’s offers only top quality 14’ and 16’ aluminum rowboats, with a 6, 8, or 15HP motor for an extra cost. Ditch the motor, in my opinion. The experience is much more rewarding if you row.