Smile Politely

Year of the Park, Hidden Gems: Collins Pond, Homer

As Year of the Park continues, we will be documenting every park in Champaign, Urbana, and Savoy, Champaign County Forest Preserves, along with other odds and ends between July 2020 and July 2021. You can see what has been covered thus far by clicking here. If you have suggestions or ideas or feedback, feel free to contact us at


Collins Pond


2563 County Rd 1200 N, Homer 

A sign that states Collins Pond .

Photo by Seth Fein. 


Technically, Collins Pond is a feature of Homer Lake, one of the gorgeous Forest Preserves that Champaign County Forest Preserve District maintains and operates for us all. The pond was created in the 1960s and in 2005, work began to restore and revive the ecosystem that surrounds it. Named after a former CCFPD commissioner, it’s sort of its own separate space from Homer Lake proper, which is to say, it has its own parking lot, and its own identity as well. It’s a short trail of about two-thirds of a mile, and the trailhead begins at the pond. Upon arriving you can learn a bunch about why its been preserved and how they met the moment. 

An informational poster on a large lectern discussing the history of Collins Pond.

Photo by Seth Fein. 
An informational poster on a large lectern gives the ecological history of Collins Pond

Photo by Seth Fein.

Walk deeper along the trail, and you find yourself on a small but picturesque bluff overlooking the Salt Fork River. There are multiple mini trails within, but once you arrive at the bench, you can hook a right and make your way down to the bottoms. 

A wooden bench in the forest overlooking the salt fork river.

Photo by Seth Fein. 

I sat on this bench for a while with my two little boys, and we spoke about rivers, and what lives inside of them. Are there frogs? Yes, there are frogs. Are there fish? Yes, there are fish. Are there crabs? No, there are not crabs, but there are crawfish. What are crawfish? They are like little tiny river lobsters. Can they hurt you? I don’t think so, but let’s go find out! 


So here is a bench in the middle of a forest preserve, designed specifically for you to sit and be at peace with yourself or with a friend or loved one. This is the sort of thing that makes a day at Collins Pond that much more worthwhile. It is precisely the sort of thing that allows me (and you, right?) to feel really good about supporting the upcoming referendum to raise our property taxes just a smidge so we can get the most out of our forest preserves and the amenities that surround it. 

The salt fork river from the bluff above it.

Photo by Seth Fein. 

Once you walk down into the river bottoms, you are met with the Salt Fork where you can take off your shoes and slosh around, and even go fishing if it meets your interests.

Two children and their mom play in the salt fork river

Photo by Seth Fein.

This is indeed a hidden gem, Collins Pond. I didn’t even know about it until a dear friend asked my wife on an afternoon date to try to find a bit of peace inside the madness that’s been 2020. She came home and felt full again; her smile was restored, her evening: rewarding. 

With the fall colors in season, now would be a great moment to take a drive out this way and pack a picnic lunch or early evening dinner to enjoy the changing of the leaves and the smells that accompany it. 

Enjoy it, dear readers. It is wonderful to be alive.

Top image by Seth Fein.

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