Shawnee National Forest


Welcome to the Shawnee National Forest, where the picturesque Ozark and Shawnee Hills meet miles of rolling farmland. Situated between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and encompassing most of far southern Illinois, the 280,000-acre national forest features five distinct ecosystems, including prairie wetlands, hardwood forests, lakes, rivers, and small canyons. The prehistoric Native American occupation of the area comprising Shawnee National Forest began about 11,500 years ago. Europeans began to explore the area in 1673. One tragic episode of the area's history was the forced march of the Cherokee people from southeastern states to western reservations in Oklahoma during the winter of 1838-1839. This area came to be a part of the "Trail of Tears," so called because many Cherokee perished from cold, hunger, and exhaustion during the journey. The 19th century brought an influx of immigrants and a rapid expansion of homesteads and settlements. During the 1930s, the national forest was established to preserve eroding farmland and has since become the largest continuous area of woodlands in the state. Shawnee National Forest's diverse ecosystems support a large variety of wildlife, from the Indiana bat to the pygmy sunfish. Bald cypress trees thrive here, and tupelo wetlands and upland hardwood slopes give a varied feel to the terrain. Although hunting and camping are permitted throughout most of Shawnee Forest, seven wilderness areas comprise ten percent of the park. Travel is restricted to hiking and horseback riding, while no mechanized vehicles are allowed. If solitude is what you're looking for, you'll tend to find more of it in wilderness areas than in other parts of the national forest. Shawnee offers several miles of trails that lead to lakes, streams, campgrounds, and hunting areas. All trails are open to hikers and many are open to horses. Fishing, canoeing, and sailing opportunities abound on the park's many waterways. Boat rental services are limited. Bodies of water range from small ponds to lakes larger than 2,700 acres. Lakes and streams packed with sunfish, catfish, and bluegill tempt the fishing enthusiast. While the Forest Service charges no fee to fish, an Illinois fishing license is required. The best time to visit Shawnee National Forest is during spring and fall, when colors are at their brightest and temperatures are mild. If you're planning to stay for an extended period of time on a backpacking or camping trip, beware of changeable weather conditions, especially in summer. Developed campgrounds are available for RVs and tents, and most are situated around historic sites, rivers and streams, and interesting rock formations. You'll find individual state parks located within the forest; these offer their own set of campgrounds and facilities. National forest campgrounds are scattered throughout the vast acreage. They vary in size and seasons of operation. Please call the Shawnee National Forest service for specific details. Pets: Leashed pets are permitted. Reservations: Sites cannot be reserved.


50 Hwy 145 South
Harrisburg, IL 62946


37.39062000, -88.74903000
Visit Website
(618) 253-7114

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