BEST AREAS FOR WILDERNESS CAMPING
SHAWNEE NATIONAL FOREST
300,000 acres. Shawnee National Forest stretches across the southern tip of Illinois between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. It’s an area of rolling hills with some rugged terrain including steep slopes, cliffs and bluffs, caves, large rock formations and sandstone outcroppings.
There are a number of lakes and streams, with the Big Muddy and Saline Rivers among several larger waterways. Forests are of oak and ash, cedar and pine, along with some dogwood and redbud. Wildlife includes white-tailed deer, fox, and wild turkey.
Seven new wilderness areas were designated in 1990, among them the 5,863-acre Bald Knob Wilderness, the 4,730-acre Clear Springs Wilderness, the 4,466-acre Lusk Creek Wilderness, and the 3,293-acre Garden of the Gods Wilderness.
Activities: The National Forest has over 135 miles of marked trails for hiking and backpacking, along with a larger number of other paths and old roads. Longest is the 47-mile River-to-River Trail. This and some other trails are open to horses.
Canoeing is available on lakes, rivers, and many of the streams. Biking is permitted on some trails outside of wilderness areas. Another option here is spelunking (caving). Fishing is also possible. Hunting is permitted in season.
Camping Regulations: Camping is allowed throughout most of the National Forest, as are campfires, except where posted otherwise. Campers are encouraged to stop by at a forest office before starting out. No permits are necessary.
Within several Special Management Areas one may camp or build campfires only at designated sites. Since extended spells of heat and humidity are common in the summer, spring and fall are the best seasons for camping here.
For Further Information: Shawnee National Forest, 901 S. Commercial Street, Harrisburg, IL 62946; (618)253-7114.