Newsletter Winter 2023


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The Friends of the Shawnee National Forest is a nonprofit organization that supports the Shawnee National Forest by promoting land stewardship, environmental education and responsible outdoor recreation.


Winter in the Shawnee National Forest can be magical. The trees, for the most part, have lost their leaves offering majestic scenic views. If planning a visit, or a short road trip, always be prepared. Plan ahead. Remember, depending where you go, GPS and internet service may be spotty. Bring a map. Find hiking and equestrian maps on our webstore at

Find out more information about the Shawnee National Forest at

2nd Annual Shawnee Polar Plunge

Friends is hosting the second annual Shawnee Polar Plunge at Pounds Hollow Lake, Saturday. March 4 starting at 3 p.m. This is an opportunity to support The Friends of the Shawnee National Forest, the Equality Fire Department, and a way to say goodbye Winter and hello Spring. So come on and say goodbye Winter in a big way. Individual and group prizes will be awarded. Please follow Friends on our Facebook page at or on our website at

Norm Willmont 1958-2022

Norm Wilmont passed away this last September. He was a member of the Friends of the Bayou and a longtime supporter of Turkey Bayou Campgrounds. Friends of the Shawnee National Forest founder Pat York shared her memories of Norm. 

“Norm was not much for bureaucracy, but he did what he needed to do to pursue what he loved. I first met Norm over the phone in 2011 or 2012 when he wanted to keep Turkey Bayou Campground open on the Shawnee National Forest. It had been on a list to close due to damage from the flood from 1993, high maintenance, investment needs and low revenue. I was the Recreation Program Manager and Norm called me to see if he and his friends could somehow keep it open. By the end of our first phone call, we made a connection swapping stories about our lives and families. He shared stories of his memorable camping trips at Turkey Bayou Campground and said he could help keep it open. We held several meetings at the “Bayou”, and he convinced us that it would be a good partnership. It was the first of many partnerships between “Friends of the Bayou” and the Forest Service, and eventually with the not-for-profit Friends of the Shawnee National Forest.   

Norm was an exceptionally kind man, showing pictures of his grandchildren, telling stories about his life, asking about your family, and showing his care and commitment to making life better. His legacy lives on through Friends of the Bayou and Turkey Bayou Campground. His kindness and his laughter live on in my heart. ”   

The Friends Welcomes Jon Jackson

The Friends of the Shawnee welcomes Jon Jackson to the Shawnee National Forest as the new Biological Science Technician (botanist) of the United States Forest Service. Jon is stationed at the Mississippi Bluffs Ranger District in Jonesboro. Originally from Virginia, he earned his Bachelors of Science in Biology in 2018 from James Madison University. Jon brings with him a wealth of botanical knowledge from his experience as an Assistant Horticulturist, Habitat Restoration Technician, and most recently as the Botany Resource Assistant with the Los Angeles National Forest. Jon has worked on many projects protecting botanical resources and will be a valuable asset in fulfilling the USFS mission.

Left it Better

The Friends of the Shawnee National Forest hosted the University of Illinois Outdoor Adventure Group for a stewardship day on the Indian Point Trail at Garden of the Gods. Eighteen members of the IOAC made the trip down from Champaign for the 2nd consecutive year and they certainly left it better than they found it.

Partnering with four members of the United States Forest Service and a Friends of the Shawnee board member, they placed 10 checks and water bars along the first part of the trail leading up the hill from the parking lot. These will help with future erosion by slowing down and diverting water off the trail. Hats off to IOAC and the entire crew for a job well done.

Lodging was provided by Rim Rock Dogwood Cabins. If you know of a group that would like to come to the area to help with some stewardship around the forest, or if you know of a lodging facility that might be interested in accommodating such groups for free, please let us know at

2022 Accomplishments 


We hope you got out and enjoyed the Shawnee National Forest in 2022. Thanks to you, we’ve had a busy year.  Some of our most notable projects and collaborations include:

  • Partnering with University of Illinois Extension and volunteers to remove over 3400 lbs. of trash at Bell Smith Springs, Dutchman Lake, Grantsburg Swamp and Ripple Hollow which included removal of 2042 lbs. of trash in one day at Ripple Hollow.
  • Celebrating National Public Lands Day partnering with the River to River Trail Society and Shawnee Saunterers hiking group members to remove nearly 350 pounds of trash at Garden of the Gods and Pounds Hollow.  
  • Removing close to five acres of nonnative invasive autumn olive trees along the drive to Garden of the Gods. This was a joint collaboration with The Friends of the Shawnee National Forest, along with the United States Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy, River to River Cooperative Weed Management, University of Illinois Extension, and Shawnee Resource Conservation and Development, and other volunteers. 

2023 Future Projects and Goals 

2023 will be full of Trash Blasts, Graffiti Removal projects and, new in 2023, Guided Hikes, Here’s a preview of some of the things we’re working on:

  • Creation of an Adopt-a-Trail program where civic groups, church groups, scouting organizations and others can offer minimal trail stewardship and maintenance, as well as alert the USFS of trail conditions. 
  • Host 15-20 people from the University of Boston in March for a full week of stewardship projects in the Shawnee National Forest.
  • Continuation of more nonnative invasive species (NNIS) removal along the road leading to the Observation Trail at Garden of the Gods and other locations. 
  • The Friends of the Shawnee National Forest, the Shawnee Mountain Bike Association and the U.S. Forest Service have entered into a cost share agreement to upgrade 16 miles of currently designated trails between Johnson Creek and the Crisenberry Dam at Kinkaid Lake. The initial groundwork will take place this winter. 
  • A partnership between the USFS, Friends of the Shawnee National Forest and the Shawnee Mountain Bike Association is expected to be approved and funded for the Cedar Lake Trail Remediation Project resulting in five miles of trail reconstruction on this highly trafficked trail system. 

Become a Volunteer

Photo by Ray Bieri

The Friends of the Shawnee National Forest works with the US Forest Service and others to keep the Shawnee beautiful.

We could use your help. Consider becoming a volunteer. Email us at 


This is Where We Live

Become a Shawnee Friends Member

Consider becoming a new Member of the Friends of the Shawnee National Forest or renew your membership.

All members receive:

  • Our quarterly e-newsletter.
  • Emails inviting them to stewardship events such as trash blasts and trail building.
  • The satisfaction of knowing they are supporting the Friends’ mission of promoting land stewardship, environmental education, and responsible outdoor recreation in the Shawnee National Forest.

Membership Levels

Sapling – $25
Redbud – $40

New Redbud Members receive a T-shirt.
Dogwood – $75
New Dogwood Members receive a T-shirt and their choice of east side or west side trail maps of the Shawnee.
Elm – $100
New Elm Members receive a T-shirt, their choice of east side or west side trail maps and annual recognition in our e-newsletter.
Ash – $250

New Ash Members receive a T-shirt, their choice of east side or west side trail maps, annual recognition in our e-newsletter, and on our website.


or send to:
          Friends of the Shawnee National Forest
          P.O. Box 612 Carbondale, IL 62903

As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, membership and donations are tax deductible.

Thank you to these Members with annual contributions of $250 or more

Pat York            Chelsea Moss               Jill Rendleman               Dianne Newes

Thank you to these Members with annual contributions of $100 or more

                                      Kelly Flynn                                       Susan Logue 
                                      Tyler Clott                                        David W. Flenner
                                      Charles Holmes III                         Richard Harden
                                      Robin Russell                                  Joe Lenzini                                       
                                      Sean Collins Stapleton                   Joshua Welling
                                      Troy Smith                                       Judy Bagato 
                                      Bernard Derroite                            Kristi Weaver
                                      John Wohlwend                             Stephanie Page
                                      Tracy Emory                                   Ron Mueller
                                      Gary Andrews                                Geoff Ritter
                                       Evan Coulson                                Pat Jones

Shop Our Online Store


Shawnee National Forest items make great gifts. Mix and match. 

Also available are Post Cards and Magnets featuring: Garden of the Gods, Inspiration Point, Little Grand Canyon, Burden Falls and Jackson Hole on our online store at

Another Way to Support our Mission