Hiking with Shawn’s Trail Guide Series:
Kaskaskia Experimental Forest
Kaskaskia Experimental Forest was a forest set aside for experimental research in tree and forest stands. From the 1940s to the 1970s, the site went from less than 500 acres to over 1,300 acres. Once managed from Ohio, it was eventually managed from Carbondale. In the early 70s, the land was turned over to the Shawnee National Forest. The former research center on site was torn down but some of its foundation still remains. There are numerous larger trees in the now ecological area that are still tagged from their former experimental statuses.
A note of caution – the area appears to be a dumping ground from locals who don’t care about public lands. There are tires everywhere, sadly. The area is also reported to be host to partying and it is said that the ‘Rainbow People’ will meet there to conduct their raves and celebrations. It is best to visit this area in the daylight.
Directions and Stuff!
There are no signs to this particular area of the Shawnee National Forest. It is close to the Illinois Iron Furnace site. I created this highlighted Google Map to show you where to go. The highlight is the Forest Service Road to drive down. The road eventually becomes rough and probably only accessible to jeeps and other off-road type vehicles.
We first parked where the Forest Service sign for Kaskaskia Woods EA was located and went down that trail to the parking area with the old foundation near it. We are assuming the foundation belonged to the former research station. If you continue down the trail on your left of the parking lot area, we went to where it turned into a T and went right. It appears to be an old wagon road. We made our way down that road until we came to an old home site on our left with a large hole and some foundation. We turned around there and made our way back to the truck.
What You’ll See!
Aside from some older larger trees from the previous experimental forest, there wasn’t a lot to see from what we could tell. The old home site was neat to see. There isn’t often much left from the old home sites aside from an unprotected well here and there but they are still interesting to see because it leaves your imagination open to wonder what the history was. There was no bluffage from what we could see based on the topo maps.
On Google overview, I could see that there could be a fairly scenic creek around that area. The creek would probably be the only reason that I would revisit the area. If the creek isn’t that scenic, then I probably wouldn’t be back, personally.
It is worth seeing though just for the walk at least. I’ll always give an area a chance and if it wasn’t that spectacular, that is fine but at least I can say I saw it for myself.
Tips for the Trail!
- The trail is probably best in the fall and winter months. It isn’t used that much so I’d imagine it is overgrown during the warmer months.
- This area looks like it should be on the west side with its rolling hills and ridgelines. So you can expect some hilly terrain here and there but it isn’t too bad.
- I wouldn’t visit at night, it seems like a party spot for alcoholic activities.
- There are tons of old tires and large pieces of trash, sadly. That area could use a trash blast badly but someone would need to be willing to haul some large stuff out.
- Be mindful of private property boundaries while exploring out there. We like to use an app called OnXHunt – it will show you public and private boundaries.
Watch the videos for this trail!
Below is a recent video that we filmed while enjoying this area.
One last thing!
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Shawn J. Gossman
Shawn is the founder and host of the YouTube Channel, Hiking with Shawn as well as Hiking with Shawn LLC. Shawn hikes, backpacks and visits various forested areas in the Shawnee National Forest, local state parks and other areas promoting outdoor recreational activities to obtain video to show to locals and non-locals alike. Please support Shawn’s efforts by sharing this post and leaving a comment below.