Shawnee National Forest

Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest
Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest, photographed by Daniel Schwen

The largest publically owned body of land in the state, the Shawnee National Forest is a United States National Forest located in the Ozark and Shawnee Hills of Southern Illinois. Administered by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, it encompasses 280,000 acres of federally managed lands in Pope, Jackson, Union, Hardin, Alexander, Saline, Gallatin, Johnson, and Massac counties. Forest headquarters are located in Harrisburg, Illinois, and there are local ranger district offices in Jonesboro and Vienna.

Designated as the Illini and Shawnee Purchase Units, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared these purchase units to be the Shawnee National Forest in September 1939. Most of the land added to the Forest early on was exhausted farmland. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted pine trees to prevent erosion and help rebuild the soil. The Forest is also home to hardwood trees and other regional plants and animals.

Mushroom shaped rock formations at Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest
Mushroom shaped rock formations at Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest, photographed by Wikimedia Commons user Djngsf
Modern Times
Shawnee National Forest