The Chain O' Lakes is a region in the northwestern part of greater Chicagoland which is composed of 15 lakes connected by the Fox River and man-made channels. Located in the Lake County along the Wisconsin border, it is generally centered around the Village of Fox Lake but includes much of the greater area.
- 1 Round Lake Beach - The largest community in the area and anchor of the Round Lake region, this community is an economic center.
- 2 Fox Lake - This major regional community sits on Fox Lake, the largest lake in the area.
- 3 Antioch - A community in the northern portion of the region, home to a unique downtown and many of the lakes in the chain.
- 1 [dead link] Chain O' Lakes State Park, 8916 Wilmot Road, Spring Grove (Located near US 12 immediately north of Fox Lake), ☏ . A natural area preserving the original character of the lakes, there are many opportunities for camping, hunting, fishing and water sports.
Originally formed as a result of the Wisconsin glacier melt off, the Chain O' Lakes were fed and connected by the Fox River. The area as a whole is marshy, which inhibited early development until the Milwaukee Road Railroad was built through the area in the early 20th century. The first station was at the location of the current Metra Station in Fox Lake. This spurred the first major growth in the area as tourists from Chicago began arriving. Many resorts were built including the now closed Mineola.
However, the remote location proved to be a boon not only to tourists but also crime. The resorts eventually banded together to create the Village of Fox Lake to stop interference from Lake County. During prohibition, the area was renown the Chicagoland region for having very lose liquor enforcement and was an attraction for drinking, gambling and organized crime. Al Capone was known to frequent the area and had a summer home in Antioch.
The Great Depression effectively ended much of the tourism industry in the area. Gradually, many communities in the area transitioned into modern suburbs with a mixture of year-round residents and tourists. Tourism only truly remains important in Fox Lake and Antioch, while the rest of the area has some but much less tourist attractions. During the summer, the population of Fox Lake alone can swell to 100,000 people.
The area is also serviced by two of Chicagoland's Metra commuter rails. The following lines can be used:
- Milwaukee District North Line: This line provides regular service between Chicago's Union Station and Fox Lake. In addition to Fox Lake, it services the Village of Round Lake as well as some small unincorporated areas in the Chain O' Lakes.
- North Central Service Line: This line provides regular service between Union Station and Antioch. It also serves the Chain O' Lakes communities of Lake Villa and Round Lake Beach.
Car is the primary method of travel in between the communities of the Chain O'Lakes. Any of the following routes can be used for this purpose:
- US 12: The primary north-south route, US 12 connects Spring Grove to Fox Lake, Volo and Wauconda.
- IL 59: A north-south route, IL 59 originates at IL 173 near downtown Antioch and heads due south connecting Fox Lake, Volo and Wauconda.
- IL 83: A north-south route, IL 83 originates at the Wisconsin border and connects Antioch, Lake Villa and Round Lake Beach.
- Rollins Road: A primary east-west, Rollins Road originates at IL 132 immediately west of Gurnee and connects the communities of the Round Lake Area to Fox Lake, where it terminates.
- Blarney Island, 27843 West Grass Lake Road, Antioch. A very unique bar, Blarney Island is located on an island in the Fox Lake and accessible only by boat. Shuttle service is provided to the Island during Friday and Saturday evening for a nominal fee. It is sometimes called "The Key West of the Midwest."
Though the area still has a bit of a rough image, it is by and large completely safe for tourists, especially in the downtown areas of the Villages in the area. Travel may become difficult at times in the winter.
The Chain O'Lakes has the fortunate position of being located immediately near many other attractions including those in nearby Gurnee and Lake Geneva, both of which can be reached within a 30 minute drive from Fox Lake.