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I've been going here since I was a kid. It's about 3 to 3.5 hours away, on the water too so great boating/fishing/etc. www.fremontjellystone.com I've had a big camper out there for the last few years, out there about every weekend. I'll be opening it up again this year in April.
Hope that helps some. I've done a lot of camping all over, Chain O Lakes State Park is another great option that's a lot closer, although I don't know if you'll find a good camp spot that also works well for your scope (been a few years since I've been there.)
Edit: Oh yeah - if you do go to Jellystone, because I have a seasonal camp site there, I can get you a pretty good discount, all you have to do is tell them my name when you book it so get in touch with me for my info.
Last Edit: Mar 16, 2013 16:59:12 GMT -6 by headdunce
The problem with Kankakee River State park is that it has two campgrounds. The one with more amenities (full electric / flush toilets / showers) is the more heavily wooded one, Potawatomi. There are a FEW campsites there that have SOME view of the sky, but it is limited. The better campground for viewing is the more open one, Chippewa, but you lose the flush toilets and no showers. But the view of the sky is decent, if you choose the right spot. Still some trees, but you can work around them.
I've not stayed in the actual campground sites at Starved Rock State Park, but when I went there a couple years ago for a star party and stayed on the large youth camping field, the skies were quite good. But I think the regular campground is more wooded. It is also pretty heavily trafficked, and you're likely to run into lights from other campers.
Come to think of it, I think the biggest problem you're going to run into is that many of the electric/shower campgrounds are going to be lit up like Times Square at night by other campers. That doesn't make for ideal viewing conditions for the sky. There are some better campgrounds from which to view, but then you'll lose that electricity / shower access.
Depends on what is more important to you; I'm not sure you're going to find something like what you want that's going to provide great views of the sky.
There are quite a few star parties in the area that will have some of these things to some degree or another. Look into these:
Prairie Skies Star Party Michiana Star Party Bootleg Star Party Illinois Dark Skies Star Party Indiana Family Star Party
Hello! The Northwest Suburban Astronomers have a very active group of Deep Sky Observers and they frequently head out to camp sites. One of their regular sites is the Marengo IL State Park. The skies are not very dark but the site is gated and very secure. They also go to Wildcat Mountain State Park in Wisconsin that has very dark skies, however, that is a four hour drive from Chicago. Consider joining the Northwest Suburban Astronomers. Regards, Tony
Last Edit: Jul 18, 2013 12:49:41 GMT -6 by atmtony
There is a nice campground in Galena called Palace Campground that is just a few hours from Chicago (in the NW corner of the state). If you tent-camp in the back portion of this campground, it is very dark and has great views of the Western and Northern skies. They also have decent flush toilets and showers there.
I often go there to count how many satellites I can see pass overhead, and my record so far is 12 in one evening ;-)