U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Shawnee National Forest


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Forest Information

The Shawnee National Forest is located in the Ozark and Shawnee hills of southern Illinois. It is comprised of 270,000 acres. There are 11 developed campgrounds, 7 of which meet the selection criteria.

Unlike the land to the north, glaciers had little influence in shaping the Shawnee National Forest's topography. Wind and water were the forces forming this diverse forest awaiting exploration and enjoyment. Bound by the Mississippi River on the west, the Ohio River on the south and east, and the sculptured land of northern Illinois, the natural forces continue to shape the land. In this landscape the Forest Service works to create, manage and maintain the many recreational opportunities, such as hiking, camping, and fishing, the woodland offers.

Located on the eastern side of the Shawnee National Forest is Garden of the Gods Wilderness and Pharaoh campground. This camping location is well-suited to car and tent camping enthusiasts along with folks in small recreational vehicles (RV) and motorhomes. From this campground one can see in the adjacent Wilderness how wind and rain worked together in sculpting southern Illinois' sandstone. It is something of Bryce Canyon in Utah or Garden of the Gods in Colorado, but on a smaller scale. A comfortable walkway leads through the various fanciful forms, the formations of which have such names as Camel, the Devil's Smokestack, and Table. Nearby, in Pounds Hollow Recreation Area (a more RV and motorhome friendly camping location), a short hike is offered which leads to a prehistoric Native American site at the Rim Rock. This site provided ancient people a natural fortress.

For serious hikers there is the River-to-River Trail. This trail, which when completed, links the Mississippi River in the west with the Ohio River in the east. Winding through Shawnee National Forest, the hiker observes the variety and diversity of the Forest's geology, wildlife, and culture. However, this trail is not the only way to experience or enjoy the beauty, tranquility, and diversity of Shawnee National Forest. Camping along the River-to-River Trail is classified as dispersed or undeveloped and included in this review of campgrounds. Contact the Shawnee National Forest directly for rules and regulation. For the less ambitious looking for shorter, more liesurely hikes there is White Pine Trail at Pine Hills campground and many more trails of various lengths and levels crisscrossing the Forest to aid visitors' exploration.

A delightful mixture of trees, such as maple, gum, dogwood, beech, and oak are found within the boundaries of the Shawnee National Forest and provide an eye-pleasing array of fall foliage. Perhaps the best place to find the autumn palette is in one of the Forest's seven Wilderness designated areas or along the Shawnee Hills on the Ohio Scenic Byway (contact Forest Supervisor's Office in Harrisburg for directions and more information).

Hunting is an important component to the health and well-being of any National Forest. But for many visitors to the Shawnee National Forest, the robust populations of whitetail deer, Canadian geese, wild turkey and other wildlife species, the "hunt" is with a camera loaded with several rolls of film. An alternative to this form of "shooting" wildlife is landscape photography. Few places in Illinois offer the variety and diversity of images one will find in the Shawnee National Forest. From the vivid display of fall colors to the sobering effects of Mississippi's springtime floods, the Forest has many sights worth recording.

In contrast to the gently rolling farm lands to the north, the Shawnee National Forest is rough and rugged. The very texture of the landscape provides a wide assortment of recreational opportunities. From camping to mushroom hunting, birding to berry picking, fishing to cross-country hiking, and more, the diverse Shawnee National Forest awaits.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 50 Hwy. 145 South Harrisburg, Illinois 62946 800-699-6637 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Mississippi Bluffs 521 N. Main Jonesboro, Illinois 62952 618-833-8576 Hidden Springs 602 N. First Street Route 45 North Vienna, Illinois 62995 618-658-2111

Fred and Suzi Dow