You can support Shawnee National Forest and other local nature areas by becoming a member and/or donating to the various organizations that were created to support Shawnee National Forest and our local state parks and natural areas. Let me start by saying this article isn’t a sponsored article – I am linking to these organizations because I feel it is important to have organizations that support Shawnee National Forest and other local area interests in conservation and nature. And we actually have a slew of these types of organizations as well. The more support and donations we give, the better off the forest will be. But if you cannot financially support Shawnee National Forest and other areas, it’s fine and totally understandable but I feel like putting the names of these organizations and what they do out here on the internet is a good idea for those of you who might be interested.
Organizations that Support Shawnee National Forest
The one organization that I am a big fan of in terms of supporting the forest is Friends of the Shawnee National Forest. I’ve been a supporting member for a while now and I try to give more when I can. I’ve purchased memberships, bought their maps, volunteered with the forest service through them, contributed photography for their activities, advertised their events and even asked for donations for their organization on my Facebook charity birthday feature. It is that one kind of organization that I am very proud to support because they truly care for the forest and they want to ensure that we can all enjoy the forest as well. You can support Shawnee National Forest by become a member of Friends of the Shawnee National Forest today by clicking this link.
Friends of the Bayou are another great organization created to support Shawnee National Forest interests. This organization specifically supports Turkey Bayou, a small campground area on the very eastern end of Oakwood Bottoms Recreational Area off of Route 3. Turkey Bayou is a free to camp campground – no joke, completely free to camp there. I bet it is especially popular during the migration of Snake Road because of the amount of out-of-state tourism that occurs. There is usually a restroom, quite a few camp spots and picnic tables available. The volunteers and Friends of the Bayou contribute their own time and money (for free) to help maintain the area. Without Friends of the Bayou, the campground would likely not exist today. That area is prone to flooding as it sits next to the Big Muddy River and yet they maintain it after every flood to ensure that it is safe to camp at for you and me. To learn more about how you can support Friends of the Bayou, click this link.
Shawnee Mountain Bike Association is another organization that has a specific area where they support Shawnee National Forest – mountain biking. A forest should be open to all users whether on foot, hooves or non-motorized wheels. Shawnee Mountain Bike Association has supported the mountain biking effort in the forest for many years. Mountain biking is a fun activity that promotes health and allows trails to be easily maintained. Bicycle tires do little damage (if any at all) to trails. Learn more about the Shawnee Mountain Bike Association on their website by clicking this link.
Shawnee Trail Conservancy is another organization that was created to support Shawnee National Forest. This organization mainly supports horseback riding and equestrian activities in the forest. Without the horseback riding community, many of the current trails within the forest would not exist. Horseback riding within the Shawnee National Forest is a very popular recreational activity. There are numerous equestrian camps on both districts of the forest and organizations like Shawnee Trail Conservancy help to maintain trails and work with other organizations that support Shawnee National Forest. To learn more about the Shawnee Trail Conservancy, click this link.
River to River Trail Society is an organization that was created to support Shawnee National Forest efforts on maintaining the 160-mile River to River Trail. The popular trail spans through most areas of the forest and is made up of forest trails, forest roads and regular roads as well. Recently, the River to River Trail had several re-routes and maintenance efforts done. With the help of a grant, the River to River Trail Society along with other organizations that support Shawnee National Forest places new trail blaze markers and informational signs along the entire trail as well as create new maps for trail users. This organization also hosts free annual (seasonal) group hiking events throughout much of the forest – I’ve personally been on many of them and can’t wait to join them again. To learn more about the River to River Trail Society, check out their official website by clicking this link.
Sierra Group of the Shawnee National Forest is an organization created to support Shawnee National Forest as part of a nationwide effort of supporting state forests through the Sierra Club. The evolved club is responsible for protecting nature and wildlife, stopping pollution and industrial efforts that would put these areas at risk, preventing the spread on invasive species and protecting some of the most iconic natural areas in the country like the Sierra Nevada which is what initially formed the organization from the start. The Shawnee group of the organization has done a lot for the forest and can use your help if you want to become involved. To learn more about the Sierra Group of the Shawnee National Forest, click this link.
Other Local Area Support Organizations
Organizations that support the Shawnee National Forest are important for southern Illinois. However, the Shawnee National Forest isn’t our only natural gem in the region. There are also other areas, state parks and natural areas that provide many recreational opportunities for the southern Illinois region. Many of these areas attract families and out-of-state tourist that spend money in the region that essentially helps with the local economy. I’ve featured some of these organizations below for those of you who are seeking more information on how to support them or become involved with their organizations.
Touch of Nature Environmental Center is a program of Southern Illinois University near Giant City State Park. Touch of Nature does a lot of good for children and their interests in nature and conservancy. This organization is even taking a historic step in contributing to the local mountain bike community by created mountain bike-specific trails on their property. They also offer various education programs, hiking opportunities, equestrian activities, canoe/kayak recreation and even hunting and fishing opportunities. Supporting an organization like this one is important because they support young people and their goals and visions on growing up with nature and conservancy in mind. To learn more about Touch of Nature, click this link.
Friends of Giant City State Park are an organization creating to support the efforts of Giant City State Park. Giant City State Park is a popular state park in the southern Illinois region and was a hotspot during the Total Solar Eclipse in 2017. The park offers many opportunities in day hiking, backpacking, educational programs, horseback riding, road biking, nature viewing, wildlife and bird spotting, camping, shelters and even provides a seasonal lodge where visitors can get a good meal and even stay in cabins. Giant City State Park is historical in terms of forest development in southern Illinois and the depression as much of the park was made possible by the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) during these dark American times. To learn more about the Friends of Giant City State Park, click this link.
Friends of Ferne Clyffe State Park is a not-for-profit group that has been organized to support Ferne Clyffe State Park. Much like Friends of Giant City State Park, this organization is critical to the state park. State parks are important for local tourism and tend to attract more families, even more so than the forest, simply because they are very well developed and geared more towards the family-type of natural area users. Ferne Clyffe is a wonderful state park that offers many kinds of recreational activities including climbing, numerous day hiking trail, overnight backpacking opportunities, equestrian activities, educational programs wildlife and nature viewing, waterfall areas and camping. It is a state park that I often visit. To learn more about Friends of Ferne Clyffe State Park, check out their Facebook page by clicking this link.
Friends of Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge is another great organization worth mentioning. I myself, grew up going to Crab Orchard. I can remember many days of summer vacation living it up at the beach there and camping was always a blast. Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge is a paradise for many in the deer, waterfowl hunting and fishing communities, but it also offers hiking and backpacking opportunities, camping, scenic driving, wildlife and nature viewing and more. Friends of Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge does many different programs for the area ranging from educational programs to tour guiding, preserving pollinators to Hunting and Fishing Days and beyond. To learn more about Friend of Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge, check out their website by clicking this link.
Friends of the Cache River Watershed is another great organization that I often try to support. It was Heron Pond, a part of the Cache River State Natural Area that got me into hiking as much as I do today. I owe that area gratitude for Hiking with Shawn starting up to be quite honest. Cache River is unique because it shows what the area looked like oh so long ago. Swamplands in Illinois?! As crazy as that sounds, at one time, it was very normal. The restoration efforts occurring within the Cache River properties is very astounding and worth supporting. Learn more about what the Friends of the Cache River Watershed are doing for Cache River on their website by clicking this link.
The Nature Conservancy of Illinois is an organization that I find doesn’t get enough credit where credit is due. There are numerous sites within the Cache River area that is owned by the Nature Conservancy of Illinois and these sites are free to access. I must also note that every time I re-tweet a post on Twitter that was originally posted by the Nature Conservancy of Illinois, they thank me and anyone else who does it individually. Talk about a very engaged social media manager and organization. I love to support this organization every chance I get. To learn more about the Nature Conservancy of Illinois, click this link.
Friends of Pyramid State Park is an organization created to support the efforts of Pyramid State Park located in Perry County, Illinois. This state park was once a coal mining operation. After the area was mined out, Illinois Department of Natural Resources turned it into something amazing, a state park. State parks are important to local areas and their economies. An old mining operation being turned into a state park is very effective rather than letting the property sit, unvisited and turn into a wasteland. To learn more about how you can get involved with the Friends of Pyramid State Park, click this link.
The organizations above are mainly made up of volunteers who dedicate their time and money to help preserve the natural areas, parks and forests that we have grown to love and visit frequently. Only you can help by donating, supporting and volunteering with these organizations to help enhance their efforts in preserving these areas for many generations to come. I encourage you all learn more about these organizations and the options available of how you can support them. Even if you cannot support these organizations financially, maybe you can volunteer your time with them or even give them a shout out on your favorite social media profiles. The more help these organizations can get, the more they can do for the areas in which they support. I would like to thank you for reading this article and I encourage you to share it around so that others can learn more about the organizations that support Shawnee National Forest, our state parks and other nature areas that we enjoy. Please feel free to comment down below telling us about more local organizations like these that we should also look into in case I have missed some.
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.