Keeping Public Land Secret

The entire phrase “Keeping Public Land Secret” all on its own brings about mystery, curiosity, and even anger.

What is this secret land you tell me about? How do I find out more? How dare you keep land secret from me!

Some people do not like that I share the locations of the places I hike. They’ve said so publicly in excellent ways and indirectly in articles in not-so-nice ways.

And I get why. I do understand. And in some cases, I agree. But in other cases, I’m afraid I have to disagree. I think some of it is motivated by selfishness and jealousy. How dare I get attention when you have an official title?

But I don’t confront these people because I don’t want to waste time arguing with them when I can put that time into improving my community and engaging with you, the reader, the follower, and the fan!

Sometimes Keeping Public Land Secret is Required

Sometimes keeping public land secret is something I practice.

I don’t necessarily do it because I don’t think you should see it. I do it because some people do have malicious intent. But others may have curious intent without considering the consequences of their intent.

I don’t share my videos of the Snake Road migration until months after the migration has ended. There’s a reason behind that—a few.

  1. Some people are out to harm, collect, and handle these snakes (especially the rare ones), and if I show the video, they’ll look at the environment around it and potentially find the location.
  2. Some people want to see these critters and may block their ability to egress without meaning to. As a result, snakes get scared, throw up their food, and die through winter because they didn’t get a meal.

As a snake protector, which I proudly am, I have to put wildlife considerations before human considerations. If we don’t protect snakes, no one else will.

Keeping Public Land Secret

Native American Sites

I keep Native American sites secret.

But I will always encourage you to look for them. I’ll never discourage you. No non-Native American person can restrict anyone from seeing those sites. No matter how much schooling they got! If anything, those sites should be the property of the evolved tribes and Nations, and they should have the final say in who visits and who doesn’t.

That’s my proposal. Give that land back to the people it belongs to and let them decide what happens next.

With that being said, keeping a public land secret like these sites is often something we all need to do.

It’s mainly why I don’t post much content about it.

There are reasons for it.

Modern graffiti is real. It’s so real that Illinois DNR Conservation Police had to put up security cameras at Piney Creek Ravine because some selfish person who is not a friend of Native Americans spray painted over 10,000+-year-old rock art so they can get attention. But, of course, the natives did that because it was their language.

Bulge Hole and Schwegman EA were tagged recently. This is under criminal investigation, so I will not say a lot. But at first, I thought my content brought them there. I felt bad. Then I realized I’m not the only one who posts about these places. I’m not even the only “famous” person that does it.

And come to find out, the suspects accused of doing it…live by it. They’ve known about those places long before I even discovered them.

I don’t blame myself for those things anymore.

But I do learn a lesson from it.

Sometimes keeping public land secret is the best way to go.

I know of rock art sites that many people don’t know about. So please don’t ask me about them because I won’t reply. But I do encourage you to put the research in to find them. It’s incredible when you do. You put in the work.

Just consider the privacy of the sites.

Some people have malicious intent. Some might tag it. Some might even try to cut it out, steal it, or sell it. They won’t keep you in mind or anyone else that may want to see it. Instead, they will have selfish intentions.


Not Keeping Public Land Secret

If there’s a designated trail, I’m not keeping it secret.

If there is a yellow sign that shows a line through a horse, bike, or fire but doesn’t on the hiking symbol – I’m not keeping that secret. That yellow sign invites hiking. Otherwise, why is it there?

False advertising?

If public land isn’t meant for the public, sell it back to the family members connected who owned it before.

Just because you have a title doesn’t mean you can access public land, and we don’t. So I’ll always stand by that belief.

Even going off trail…

Here’s the thing. Hunters go off trail. Some (not all) will trample precious vegetation. Some (not all) leave beer cans under their permanent deer stand structures (illegal). Some set up deer camps featuring toilets, fire rings, and stuff they leave behind for the next time (also illegal).

So, don’t complain when I go hiking off-trail. I’m watching where I walk. I leave the beer at home. And I don’t make hiking camps to come back to next year. Hikers get more flack than the other groups who deserve more flack get.

And it’s mainly because people are afraid of tourism.

I’m not. I welcome it. I promote it. Hiking with Shawn’s mission is tourism. And that isn’t changing, folks.


I have a responsibility to be a steward of the land. And with that, I make an article like this. I choose not to do unsafe acts on video and explain why. I preach safety. I promote Leave No Trace. Michelle and I do trash clean-ups on holidays. I’m a board member of many boards that support public land. I care about the Shawnee and our state parks. It’s my responsibility to care for and promote caring.

That’s why I’m writing this.

I feel like it’s important to note why sometimes keeping public land secret is something we should be doing.

That way, we protect Rock Art. We protect the rare flora. We protect rattlesnake dens. We protect these special places so that generations after us can develop an interest in them, explore for them, find them, and continue to protect them.


One Last Message

To those who think people shouldn’t have any access to Rock Art sites, rare plant sites, and wildlife areas – consider this reality…

The amount of technological advancement and the loss of making kids go outside and enjoy nature is developing a new culture of people who don’t care as much about things as you and me.

Suppose we continue to chase people away from these areas. We will lose these areas. Funding will run out. People interested will run out. All the hard work, anyone, has done to preserve these spots will be in vain.

It’s time to do something different.

And we’re smart enough to do it. Of all the horrors humans have been capable of, our species is still here.

We’re smart enough to change. But if we don’t… We WILL lose everything in the end, and THAT is selfish.

That would be worse than me giving direct GPS to any Rock Art site in Shawnee National Forest.


Thank you for taking the time to read my article about keeping public land secret. Sometimes, we have to be at least discreet about it. Because there are horrible people in this world. If you enjoyed reading this article and want to see more like it, I write about it in my monthly newsletter, which you can subscribe to for free. I’ll even send you a free hiking guide as a thank you. You can unsubscribe anytime. But why? It’s free!

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Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

Founder, Hiking with Shawn

Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman

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