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Lake County
Lake County, Illinois
Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan
Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan
LC, The “Real” Lake County
Map of Illinois highlighting Lake County
Location within the U.S. state of Illinois
Map of the United States highlighting Illinois
Illinois's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Illinois
Founded March 1, 1839
Named for Lake Michigan
Seat Waukegan
Largest city Waukegan
 • Total 1,368 sq mi (3,540 km2)
 • Land 444 sq mi (1,150 km2)
 • Water 925 sq mi (2,400 km2)  67.6%
 • Total 714,342
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional districts 6th, 10th, 14th

Lake County is situated in the northeastern corner of the U.S. state of Illinois, along the shores of Lake Michigan. As of the 2020 census, it has a population of 714,342, making it the third-most populous county in Illinois. Its county seat is Waukegan, the tenth-largest city in Illinois. The county is primarily suburban, with some urban areas and some rural areas. Due to its location, immediately north of Cook County, Lake County is one of the collar counties of the Chicago metropolitan area. Its northern boundary is the Wisconsin state line.

According to the 2010 census, Lake County is the second wealthiest county in the state by per capita income, after DuPage County. Additionally, Lake County ranks as the 27th wealthiest county in the nation. The county includes the affluent North Shore communities of Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, and Highland Park, and much of the county's wealth is concentrated in this area, as well as in communities bordering Cook County to the South and McHenry County to the West. The north and northwest areas of the county, though historically rural and exurban, have experienced rapid suburbanization in the past three decades. While the lakefront communities of Waukegan, North Chicago, and Zion are post-industrial and majority non-white.

Naval Station Great Lakes is located in the city of North Chicago. It is the United States Navy's Headquarters Command for training, and the Navy's only recruit training center.


The Caspar Ott Cabin, built in 1837, is the oldest structure in Lake County.
Lake County Illinois 1839
Lake County at the time of its creation in 1839

The county, which was primarily unsettled prairie and was still home to its native Potawatomi Indians, was created by the Illinois State Legislature in 1839. At that time, Libertyville, then known as Independence Grove, was the first county seat. In 1841, however, the county's residents voted to move the county government to Little Fort, now Waukegan, where the commissioners had purchased a section of land from the state. Lake County's first courthouse was built on part of that land in 1844 and the remainder was sold to pay for the $4,000 construction cost.

The county's first courthouse was used solely for court sessions and the jail, but in 1853, commissioners constructed a building to accommodate county administration offices and house records. When fire damaged the courthouse on October 19, 1875, the county records were saved because they were in the adjacent building.

After the fire, proposals were made to move the county seat to Highland Park, Libertyville or another site in central Lake County. The county commissioners, however, decided to rebuild in Waukegan. The east half of the building was reconstructed at a cost of $45,000. In 1895, the first jail building was added to the government complex and a west addition was added to the courthouse in 1922. By 1938, county commissioners saw a need for additional space and approved the addition of a 5th Floor. This courthouse, however, was demolished in 1967 to make room for a new high-rise administration building, which was completed with the addition of the jail in 1969 and courts in 1970.

Shortly thereafter, the Lake County Board commissioned the construction of a multi-faceted justice facility and ground was broken in 1986 for the Robert H. Babcox Justice Center, named in memory of Sheriff Babcox, who served as Lake County Sheriff from 1982-1988. The justice center, which houses the county jail, work release program, sheriff's administration offices and three courtrooms, was finished in 1989 at a cost of $29.6 million.

Additional county government facilities have been built or expanded throughout Lake County, including the Coroner's Office, Health Department/Community Health Center facilities, Division of Transportation, Public Works and Winchester House. Lake County government services extend throughout the county's 470 square miles (1,200 km2).

The historic Half Day Inn, a tavern/restaurant, was constructed in 1843. This structure, once located at the corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Rte. 45/Old Half Day Road, was one of the oldest structures in Lake County until it was demolished in 2007 to make way for retail space, condominiums, and a retention pond.


Satellite image of Lake county
A satellite view of the Lake County district

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,368 square miles (3,540 km2), of which 444 square miles (1,150 km2) is land and 935 square miles (2,420 km2) (67.6%) is water. It is the second-largest county in Illinois by total area. Most of the water is in Lake Michigan.

State parks


Besides Lake Michigan, lakes in the county include:

  • Lake Amy
  • Antioch Lake
  • Ashley Lake
  • Bangs Lake
  • Lake Barrington
  • Benet Lake
  • Big Bear Lake
  • Bluff Lake
  • Brandenburg Lake
  • Bresen Lake
  • Butler Lake
  • Lake Catherine
  • Cedar Lake
  • Channel Lake
  • Lake Charles
  • Countryside Lake
  • Crooked Lake
  • Davlins Pond
  • Dead Lake
  • Deep Lake
  • Deer Lake
  • Diamond Lake
  • Druce Lake
  • Duck Lake
  • Dunns Lake
  • East Loon Lake
  • Echo Lake
  • Lake Eleanor
  • Elmwood Farms Lake
  • Lake Fairfield
  • Fish Lake
  • Forest Lake
  • Fourth Lake
  • Fox Lake
  • Gages Lake
  • Lake Germaine
  • Grandwood Lake
  • Grass Lake
  • Grassy Lake
  • Grays Lake
  • Harvey Lake
  • Hastings Lake
  • Hendrick Lake
  • Highland Lake
  • Honey Lake
  • Homer White Lake
  • Huntley Lake
  • Island Lake
  • Lambs Lake
  • Leo Lake
  • Liberty Lake
  • Lake Linden
  • Little Bear Lake
  • Loch Lomond
  • Long Lake
  • Loon Lake
  • Lake Louise
  • Lucky Lake
  • Manor Lake
  • Miltmore Lake
  • Minear Lake
  • Mud Lake
  • Lake Naomi
  • Nippersink Lake
  • North Tower Lake
  • Petite Lake
  • Pistakee Lake
  • Lake Potomac
  • Redhead Lake
  • Redwing Slough Lake
  • Round Lake
  • Saint Marys Lake
  • Sand Lake
  • Sand Pond
  • Schreiber Lake
  • Shady Lane Resort Lake
  • Lake Sheree
  • Silver Lake
  • Slocum Lake
  • Slough Lake
  • Spring Lake
  • Sterling Lake
  • Sullivan Lake
  • Sun Lake
  • Sylvan Lake
  • Third Lake
  • Timber Lake
  • Turner Lake
  • Twin Lakes
  • Valley Lake
  • Waterford Lake
  • White Lake
  • Wooster Lake
  • Lake Zurich

Natural areas

Lake County's forest preserves and natural areas are administered by the Lake County Forest Preserves district. These facilities include traditional nature preserves, such as the Ryerson Conservation Area, as well as golf courses and historic homes, such as the Adlai Stevenson historic home. A long north-south string of the preserves in Lake County, including Half Day Woods, Old School Forest Preserve, Independence Grove, and Van Patten Woods, form the Des Plaines River Greenway, which contains the Des Plaines River Trail, a popular place for walking, running, and biking. Several local environmental groups operate in Lake County, such as Conserve Lake County and Citizens for Conservation, working to improve habitat. Volunteer opportunities also exist with the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

Adjacent counties

Major highways

  • I-41.svg Interstate 41
  • I-94.svg Interstate 94
  • US 12.svg U.S. Route 12
  • US 14.svg U.S. Route 14
  • US 41.svg U.S. Route 41
  • US 45.svg U.S. Route 45
  • Illinois 21.svg Illinois Route 21
  • Illinois 22.svg Illinois Route 22
  • Illinois 43.svg Illinois Route 43
  • Illinois 53.svg Illinois Route 53
  • Illinois 59.svg Illinois Route 59
  • Illinois 60.svg Illinois Route 60
  • Illinois 83.svg Illinois Route 83
  • Illinois 120.svg Illinois Route 120
  • Illinois 131.svg Illinois Route 131
  • Illinois 132.svg Illinois Route 132
  • Illinois 134.svg Illinois Route 134
  • Illinois 137.svg Illinois Route 137
  • Illinois 173.svg Illinois Route 173
  • Illinois 176.svg Illinois Route 176


Historical population
Census Pop.
1840 2,634
1850 14,226 440.1%
1860 18,257 28.3%
1870 21,014 15.1%
1880 21,296 1.3%
1890 24,235 13.8%
1900 34,504 42.4%
1910 55,058 59.6%
1920 74,285 34.9%
1930 104,387 40.5%
1940 121,094 16.0%
1950 179,097 47.9%
1960 293,656 64.0%
1970 382,638 30.3%
1980 440,372 15.1%
1990 516,418 17.3%
2000 644,356 24.8%
2010 703,462 9.2%
2020 714,342 1.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2020

2020 census

Lake County, Illinois - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010 Pop 2020 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 458,701 408,349 65.21% 57.16%
Black or African American alone (NH) 46,989 47,240 6.68% 6.61%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 1,058 909 0.15% 0.13%
Asian alone (NH) 43,954 58,901 6.25% 8.25%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 228 312 0.03% 0.04%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 1,547 3,264 0.22% 0.46%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 10,998 23,405 1.56% 3.28%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 139,987 171,962 19.90% 24.07%
Total 703,462 714,342 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.

2010 Census

Tree Map of Employment by Occupations in Lake County, Il (2015)
Employment by occupation in Lake County

As of the 2010 Census, there were 703,462 people, 241,712 households, and 179,428 families residing in the county. The population density was 1,585.6 inhabitants per square mile (612.2/km2). There were 260,310 housing units at an average density of 586.7 per square mile (226.5/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 75.1% white, 7.0% black or African American, 6.3% Asian, 0.5% American Indian, 8.5% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 19.9% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 20.5% were German, 12.9% were Irish, 9.4% were Polish, 6.9% were Italian, 6.5% were English, and 4.0% were American.

Of the 241,712 households, 40.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.6% were married couples living together, 10.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 25.8% were non-families, and 21.5% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.82 and the average family size was 3.31. The median age was 36.7 years. The median income for a household in the county was $78,948 and the median income for a family was $91,693. Males had a median income of $62,042 versus $44,200 for females. The per capita income for the county was $38,120. About 4.8% of families and 7.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.6% of those under age 18 and 5.6% of those age 65 or over.

2019 United States Census Bureau American Community Survey estimates

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Racial Makeup of Lake County (2019)      White alone (74.21%)     Black alone (6.79%)     Native American alone (0.34%)     Asian alone (7.95%)     Pacific Islander alone (0.01%)     Some other race alone (7.36%)     Two or more races (3.33%)

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Racial Makeup of Lake County excluding Hispanics from Racial Categories (2019)
NH=Non-Hispanic      White NH (60.29%)     Black NH (6.54%)     Native American NH (0.07%)     Asian NH (7.90%)     Pacific Islander NH (0.01%)     Other race NH (0.25%)     Two or more races NH (2.51%)     Hispanic Any Race (22.44%)

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Racial Makeup of Hispanics in Lake County (2019)      White alone (62.07%)     Black alone (1.12%)     Native American alone (1.21%)     Asian alone (0.22%)     Pacific Islander alone (0.04%)     Other race alone (31.68%)     Two or more races (3.65%)

According to 2019 US Census Bureau American Community Survey one-year estimates (which is conducted annually for cities over 65,000 via sampling), the population of Lake County, Illinois was 74.2% White (60.3% Non-Hispanic White and 13.9% Hispanic White), 6.8% Black or African American, 8.0% Asian, 0.3% Native American and Alaskan Native, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 7.4% Some Other Race, and 3.3% from two or more races. The White population continues to remain the largest racial category as Hispanics in Lake County primarily identify as White (62.1%) with others identifying as Some Other Race (31.7%), Multiracial (3.7%), Black (1.1%), American Indian and Alaskan Native (1.2%), Asian (0.2%), and Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (0.1%). By ethnicity, 22.4% of the total population is Hispanic-Latino (of any race) and 77.6% is Non-Hispanic (of any race). If treated as a separate category, Hispanics are the largest minority group in Lake County, Illinois.Majority of Hispanic/ Latino residents in Lake County, Illinois are of Mexican descent. Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Central Americans, and South Americans also reside in Lake County, Illinois.

Sites of interest

Amusement parks


Performing arts

Genesee Theatre
Genesee Theatre





Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities


The county is divided into eighteen townships.

Antioch TownshipZion TownshipBenton TownshipNewport TownshipLake Villa TownshipGrant TownshipAvon TownshipWarren TownshipWaukegan TownshipWauconda TownshipFremont TownshipLibertyville TownshipShields TownshipCuba TownshipEla TownshipVernon TownshipWest Deerfield TownshipMoraine TownshipMap of Lake County Illinois showing townships
Lake County townships (clickable)
  • Antioch
  • Avon
  • Benton
  • Cuba
  • Ela
  • Fremont
  • Grant
  • Lake Villa
  • Libertyville
  • Moraine
  • Newport
  • Shields
  • Vernon
  • Warren
  • Wauconda
  • Waukegan
  • West Deerfield
  • Zion


The following sports teams play in Lake County:

  • Lake County Fielders baseball (defunct)
  • Lake County Coyotes baseball

Notable people

  • Jack Benny (February 14, 1894 – December 26, 1974) – entertainer, comedian, actor and musician, Benny was one of America's greatest stars of radio and television, and also appeared in many films; he was raised in Waukegan, Illinois.
  • Charles Boyce (September 21, 1949) – cartoonist, creator of syndicated comic panel Compu-toon and the telecommunication public affairs image The KeyPad Kid.
  • Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) – fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery writer. Best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury is widely considered one of the greatest and most popular American writers of speculative fiction of the twentieth century. Bradbury was born in Waukegan.
  • Gary Coleman (February 8, 1968 – May 28, 2010) – actor, known for his role as Arnold Jackson in the American sitcom Diff'rent Strokes (1978–1986). Coleman was born in Zion, Illinois.
  • Ron Goldman (July 2, 1968 – June 12, 1994), who was killed along with Nicole Brown Simpson grew up in Buffalo Grove.
  • Michael Jordan (born February 17, 1963) – retired professional basketball player and active businessman, widely considered one of the greatest players of all time; as of 2015, Jordan had a residence in Highland Park, Illinois.
  • Pete Wilson (born August 23, 1933), Mayor of San Diego (1971-1983); United States Senator from California (1983-1991); and Governor of California (1991-1999), born in Lake Forest.
  • Thomas E. Wilson (1868-1958), businessman and founder of 'Wilson Sporting Goods', resident and buried in Lake County.

See also

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