Friends of the

Shawnee National Forest

Supporting and Preserving the Shawnee National Forest

About Friends of the Shawnee National Forest

Friends of the Shawnee National Forest is a 501(c)3 not-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible outdoor recreation, environmental education, and land stewardship on the Shawnee National Forest. Founded in 2010, our organization works closely with the U. S. Forest Service staff and volunteers to provide high quality recreation and conservation opportunities in Southern Illinois. We value our public lands and encourage all people to get out and experience the scenic beauty of the Shawnee National Forest. Incredible sandstone bluffs, diverse flora and fauna, easy access to rivers, creeks, and lakes, and abundant opportunities to experience nature are just a few of the reasons we love this area. Through a combination of education, community outreach, and advocacy, together we can preserve and protect this extraordinary resource.

Shawnee Friends Timeline (Browse by Year)

In 2010, conversations began to develop and organize a motivated group of individuals with very specific goals:

  • Promoted stewardship values
  • Promoted responsible and sustainable recreation
  • Expanded community connections
  • Promote SNF volunteer activities
  • Provided environmental and cultural education opportunities in and around the SNF
  • Partners for this endeavor included the U.S. Forest Service, University of Illinois Extension office (U of I Ext.), Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC), and Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau.

By the end of 2010, the Articles of Corporation were filed in Illinois, Constitution and By-laws are adopted, the Board of Directors was selected, and an Executive Director was voted in. This was the initial stage of the Friends of the Shawnee National Forest. While these positions were held by volunteers, ensuring affordable assistance for capacity building gave rise to the application of NCCS AmeriCorps VISTAs for the first three generational years of the Friends.

  • The first Participating Agreement with the Shawnee National Forest legitimized Friends as an Interpretive Association with the Forest Service.
  • Developed logo, membership brochures, and WordPress website
  • Bank account opened by means of bank contribution of $1000.00 from First Bank and Trust of Murphysboro.
  • Initial funding was received from the Shawnee N.F. for merchandise, etc.
  • Held first annual dinner member meeting at Honker Hill Winery
  • Received funding from Forest Service to facilitate Community Engagement meetings throughout Southern Illinois.
  • Established mobile office and purchased laptop, printer, cash registers, etc.
  • Established S.O.P.’s and began selling merchandise from Forest Service offices
  • Established charter membership goal of 100 persons
  • VISTA volunteers won Outdoor Nation Youth Summit grant for $1000 to develop a “Family Fun Day” to be held May 2013.
  • Support U.S.F.S. for National Public Lands Day event (annually in September)
  • Outreach to local community and several schools with environmental education programs including Stewardship Week at Dixon Springs Ag. Center.
  • Set up information/membership tables at Miner’s game and multiple festivals including the P’urhepecha International Festival in Cobden.
  • Facebook Page created to engage local discussion and interest
  • Grant received from National Environmental Education Foundation to start “Nature Network”, partnering with health community to write prescriptions for kids to get outdoors.
  • National Public Lands Day Trash Blast event at Garden of the Gods and other SNF locations.
  • Annual membership dinner and meeting at Honker Hill Winery
  • Participated in Martin Luther King, Jr. Day community event and deliver multiple environmental education and outreach programs to schools, Miner’s game, DuQuoin fair, and in community.
  • Hosted online photo contest for SNF
  • Printed first hiker-equestrian trail map for Herod/Eddyville area of the Forest.
  • Assisted in visitor surveys at designated SNF sites
  • Began L.O. Trigg tour revival for National Public Lands Day in September
  • Finalized Community Engagement reports
  • Hosted “Family Fun Day” with Outdoor Nation grant at Touch of Nature Environmental Center
  • Developed scholarship program for Master Naturalist certification
  • Began quarterly newsletter, Twitter account and YouTube channel
  • Began U.S.F.S. Heritage Program public lecture series
  • Annual membership dinner and meeting at Honker Hill Winery
  • Developed Strategic Vision with Board of Directors and Forest Service
  • Established committees for membership, Executive Director search
  • Community Art Show for MLK Jr. Day by fundraising for Meridian Elementary School
  • Host and award scholarship recipients for University of Illinois Ext. Master Naturalists
  • Agreement with U.S.F.S. to sponsor trainer workshops and present for volunteer/membership
  • Completed and submit 501(c)3 application to federal IRS
  • Partnered with Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Sierra Club to host hikes in all 8 wildernesses in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act.
  • Transitioned from VISTA program to first paid, part-time Executive Director
  • Expanded memberships, merchandise selection and map sales
  • Began Family Fun Hikes led by Master Naturalist
  • Continued participating in environmental education programs and performing outreach, Lecture series with natural resource experts.
  • Co-sponsored 50th Anniversary party for Smokey Bear
  • Partnered with Friends of the Science Center to present ecological programming
  • Annual membership dinner and meeting at Honker Hill Winery
  • First Annual Board Retreat with Board of Directors and Executive Director
  • Partnership and participation in All Species Puppet Parade, several environmental education programs, outreach, radio and TV interviews
  • Held Leave No Trace Workshop for hikers and horseback riders
  • Annual membership picnic at Bella T Winery
  • Partnered with Touch of Nature, Boy Scouts and Southern Illinois Geography Club to hold Trash Blast at Garden of the Gods for National Public Lands Day
  • Partnered with Armor Express to support canine Law Enforcement Office Samio in obtaining his first bullet-proof vest.
  • Continued expanding memberships, merchandise sales and printing a 2015 hiker-equestrian map for Herod and Eddyville.
  • Initiated Community Rewards Program with Amazon, Kroger and Schnucks
  • Initiated “Plan Your Trip” program
  • Added Instagram to social media menu
  • Added exclusive member tours led by Forest Service experts twice/year
  • Second Annual Board Retreat with Board of Directors and Executive Director
  • Partnered with SIU Chancellor’s Scholars Program, Society of American Foresters and Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale to host Trash Blasts at Cove Hollow and Bell Smith Springs.
  • Expanded partnerships and participation in environmental education programming
  • Continueed TV, Radio and news coverage of events and programs
  • Hired part-time Executive Assistant
  • Hosted first annual member tours of the Shawnee National Forest at Garden of the Gods
  • Participated in the America The Beautiful Quarter Dedication Program featuring the “Camel Rock” feature within Garden of the Gods Wilderness on the 2016 quarter.
  • Held first Annual Fundraiser Dinner/Concert at The Old Feed Store
  • Co-hosts “Chat” with outgoing SNF Forest Supervisor, Allen Nicholas
  • Added student board member positions to board of directors
  • Held third annual board/staff retreat/strategic planning meeting at Touch of Nature Environmental Center
  • Co-hosted fireside “chat” program for incoming SNF Forest Supervisor, Brendan Cain at Touch of Nature Environmental Center
  • Participated in Carbondale Earth Day celebration – provided booth focused on litter
  • Hosted a tour for our members to Oakwood Bottoms led by Forest Service biologists
  • Launched new website
  • Supported SNF Fishing Derby with food donation
  • Supported SNF at Arborwild event by staffing registration booth and environmental education station – attended by over 200 people.
  • Received grant to sign and improve River to River Trail
  • Supported two fishing derbies at Pennant Bar and Oakwood Bottoms
  • Assisted Forest Service Trash Blasts at Bell Smith Springs and Garden of the Gods
  • Participated in Critter Night with Forest Service
  • Worked on River to River Cedar Lake Reroute
  • Worked on Cedar Lake Revitalization Project
  • Supported two fishing derbies at Pennant Bar and Oakwood Bottoms
  • Assisted Forest Service Trash Blasts at Bell Smith Springs and Garden of the Gods
  • Participated in Critter Night with Forest Service
  • Removed graffiti at Bell Smith Springs and Cove Hollow
  • Participated in trash clean up with visiting Boston University students
  • Entered cost share agreement with Forest Service for trail work
  • Began development of multi day hike loop trail maps

About the Shawnee National Forest

The Shawnee National Forest encompasses the southern tip of Illinois. Here six natural ecological regions meet, resulting in a diversity of plant and animal species and unique geological features. The region is strikingly beautiful in its diversity of landscapes. It is possible to traverse the Forest in one day and experience vast oak-hickory forests, flourishing wetlands, razorback ridges. In addition, there are swamplands containing tupelo and cypress and thin-soiled hill prairies or barrens where rare native wildflowers thrive.

A distinct change in topography can be seen south of State Hwy 13; like an invisible line, the area north is flat farmland, but to the south of Route 13 are the rolling Shawnee Hills. This contrast is because the scouring effect of glaciation stopped just north of the Forest and the Grand Prairie that is most associated with the state of Illinois starts 40 miles north of the Forest.

The single largest publicly owned body of land in the State of Illinois, the Shawnee National Forest totals approximately 286,000 acres of National Forest System land. Here are some facts about this unique public land base:

  • Seven Congressionally-designated Wilderness Areas (about 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
  • Two National Scenic Byways (NSB)
    • Great River Road NSB, extending along the Mississippi River
    • Ohio River NSB, along the Ohio, where it begins in Pennsylvania, traveling to Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio meets the mighty Mississippi
  • Eighty designated Natural Areas considered important for botanical, ecological, geological or zoological reasons (about 5% of the Forest). Ten of these natural areas are designated by the Forest Service as Research Natural Areas (9 ecological areas and 1 botanical area) to focus research on these high value ecological sites.
    • 56 ecological areas
    • 14 botanical areas
    • 3 geological areas
    • 7 zoological areas

For more information about the Shawnee National Forest, please visit their website:

About the U.S. Forest Service

Administered by the USDA Forest Service, the Shawnee National Forest is one of 155 national forests nationwide. The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

For more information about the U.S. Forest, please visit their website:

Our Mission

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.

Copyright © 2020 Friends of the Shawnee National Forest. All Rights Reserved. Developed by Hiking with Shawn.