Administered by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, the Shawnee National Forest is one of 155 national forests nationwide. As the only national forest in Illinois, and single largest publicly owned body of land in the state of Illinois, the Shawnee offers numerous avenues for connecting with the natural world through its 280,000 acres of varied landscape. Whether your interests lie more in outdoor recreational activities, such as hiking or camping, or include learning about the unique natural and cultural heritage of southern Illinois, the fields, forests and streams of the Shawnee welcome you.
The climate and beauty of the area are especially charming during the spring and fall seasons with the spring Wildcat Bluff 2bringing an abundance of blooming dogwoods, redbuds, and wildflowers. The fall is saturated with color as the leaves turn. The summers are warm and humid and the winters are mild. There is a rich cultural history associated with the southern Illinois region. Native Americans have used the area’s resources for over 15,000 years. French and English explorers traveled the waters of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in their first penetrations into the wilderness. The homesteads of the earliest settlers were also concentrated along these major waterways. Cultural resource sites abound on the forest and this factor alone makes public ownership and protection critical for many properties.
Within the Shawnee National Forest you will find a myriad of unique opportunities to connect with the natural world, including the following:
- Seven Congressionally-designated Wilderness Areas (over 10% of the Forest)
- Six candidate Wild and Scenic Rivers
- Four National Natural Landmarks
- Four heritage resource sites on the National Register of Historic Places.
- 10 Research Natural Areas
- 58 ecological areas
- 2 geological areas
- 14 botanical areas
- 80 other designated Natural Areas considered important for botanical, ecological, geological or zoological reasons