Outdoor Safety & Ethics

The Shawnee National Forest provides a natural arena for a wide variety of fun and exciting outdoor activities. To help you get the most of our your experience, you need to be prepared for just about anything mother nature can throw at you. 

Know Before You Go

Call 911 if You Have an Emergency

Dial 911 if you have an emergency while on Shawnee National Forest. Call or text our tip line at 618-201-3364 to report suspicious or illegal activity, for non-emergency issues or to anonymously provide information directly. See our Forest Emergency & Safety Brochure for more information.

Plan ahead and Prepare

Let someone know your travel plans. Carry plenty of water or boil/treat water before drinking. Cell phone reception may be weak or non-existent in many parts of the Shawnee National Forest. Use a map and compass or GPS device. Venomous snakes occur in southern Illinois. Be cautious, watch where you step or place your hands. It is your responsibility as a visitor to follow our rules and regulations

Use extra caution in designated wildernesses (backcountry areas)

In wilder, more remote areas of the forest, search and rescue efforts often are slower than in urban places. Stay safe and use extra caution in our seven designated wildernesses.

Rivers, Streams and Roads

Large rains may cause rivers and streams to rise quickly and stay elevated for days after a rainstorm. Some roads and trails become flooded quickly. To stay safe, be aware of weather conditions.

Smoke on the forest?

We use prescribed fire as a tool to restore Southern Illinois forests. Prescribed fire is a planned fire that is overseen by professionals. To learn more about places where we are using or plan to use fire, check out our prescribed fire page. To report a fire, dial 911 or 866-684-2051. No recreation, camping, permits, or other information is available on this line.


Resources for Visiting the Forest

Select the link below that relates to your next activity to read helpful tips to help you prepare before hitting the forest.


Remember: You are responsible for your safety and for the safety of those around you.


Frequently Asked Questions


1. How do I prepare for a visit to the Shawnee National Forest?
It’s always a good idea to plan ahead for your trip, including requesting the information and maps you need before your visit. For details on trip preparation, including safety information, check out our Forest Safety Information Brochure or contact us at 1-800-MY-WOODS.

2. How do I find my way around on the Shawnee?
Click here to open our Shawnee National Forest Guide which is very helpful. You may also request the guide and other forest information by contacting our Shawnee Forest Mailroom. You may also call or visit one of our offices in Harrisburg, Vienna or Jonesboro. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm CST. To contact the Headquarters in Harrisburg, call us at 1-800-MY-WOODS. Please consider requesting this information well in advance of your visit so you receive it in time.

3. How do I locate a recreation area, picnic site or campground?
The forest recreation areas, picnic sites and campgrounds do not have physical addresses. Visit Driving Directions for Recreation Areas for directions to various sites on the Shawnee. You may also request a Shawnee National Forest Guide brochure by contacting one of our offices in Harrisburg, Vienna or Jonesboro. If you plan to visit the area outside of our regular office hours of 8:00am to 4:30pm CST, please contact us to obtain the information and maps you need before your visit. You may also click here GPS Coordinates of Recreation Areas to view the forest recreation area GPS coordinates.

4. Where are the Shawnee National Forest offices located in relation to the recreation areas?
The Headquarters Office is located at 50 Hwy 145 South, Harrisburg, IL 62946. This office is located on the eastern side of the Shawnee and is the first building on the right as you turn south onto Route 145/34 leaving Harrisburg. It is approximately 22 miles north of the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area. You may contact this office by calling 1-618-253-7114 or 1- 800-MY-WOODS. The Hidden Springs-Vienna Office is located at 602 North First Street, Vienna, IL 62995. This office is located just off I-24 on Route 45. It is approximately 15 miles west of the Lake Glendale Recreation Area. You may contact this office by calling 1-618-658-2111. The Mississippi Bluffs- Jonesboro Office is located at 521 North Main Street, Jonesboro, IL 62952. This office is located on the west side of the Shawnee, just off Route 146. It is approximately 8 miles east of the LaRue Pine Hills Research Natural Area. You may contact this office by calling 1-618-833- 8576. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm CST.

5. Are there entrance or day-use fees charged at the Shawnee recreation areas?
No. There are fees associated with the concessioner managed Lake Glendale Recreation Area.

6. Can I reserve a picnic shelter or any other area on the Shawnee National Forest?
No. The Shawnee does not reserve – All picnic shelters and other recreation areas are first-come, first-serve.

7. How do I obtain a detailed map of the Shawnee?
Maps are available for purchase at all of our offices, located in Harrisburg, Vienna and Jonesboro. You may also visit our Map Order Form to print a copy of the Shawnee National Forest Map Order Form. Please order your maps well in advance so you receive them before your visit. If you need assistance, please contact us at 1-800-MY-WOODS.

8. How do I obtain a trail map of a specific area of the Forest?
The Shawnee offers a detailed synthetic Trails Designation Project Map for sale at our offices in Harrisburg and Vienna for $10.00. This map includes the four watersheds: Lusk Creek, Upper Bay Creek, Eagle Creek and Big Grand Pierre Creek. Please note that this map covers the eastern side of the Forest (the areas of Garden of the Gods to Lusk Creek).

9. What about emergencies?
In the event of an emergency, dial 911. Please visit our Forest Safety Information brochure for additional details.

10. Do I need to make reservations to camp on the Shawnee?
No. The Shawnee does not take reservations; all campgrounds are firstcome, first-serve. When you arrive at the developed campground entrance, please follow the instructions on the fee station. To learn more about Shawnee developed campgrounds, click here: Shawnee National Forest Recreation AreasLeave No Trace ethics apply to all visits to the Shawnee.

11. Does the Shawnee National Forest have cabins?
No. To find out more information on cabins near the Shawnee National Forest, visit Southernmost Illinois Tourism or call 1-800-248-4373.

12. Can I bring my dog on my visit to the Shawnee?
Yes. Dogs are welcome in the Shawnee National Forest; however, they must be leashed or restrained in developed recreation areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas and on developed trails.

13. What is the difference between developed and dispersed camping on the Forest?
Developed campgrounds: All campgrounds are first-come, first serve, so no reserving of sites. There is a fee at these campgrounds which offers amenities such as a picnic table, lantern posts, grill, parking spot, potable drinking water and a toilet. There is also a dumpster nearby for your use. Camping is allowed at one campsite for a maximum of 14 nights. Some of these campgrounds are closed seasonally; please see our recreation site index for more details. For specific regulations, visit Developed Campground Regulations for details on developed campground camping. It is also a good idea to leave your location and expected date of return with someone at home.

Dispersed camping: Dispersed camping is free on the Shawnee and offers no amenities. For specific regulations, visit Dispersed Camping Regulations for dispersed camping regulations. No permits are required. It is also a good idea to leave your location and expected date of return with someone at home. Leave No Trace ethics apply to all visits to the Shawnee.

14. How do I obtain firewood for my campsite?
Firewood must be from obtained from local sources only. If you use wood near your campsite, you must only use dead and down wood. This will help reduce the spread of non-native insects, which can kill large numbers of trees.

15. I currently live in the area or plan to move to the area. How do I find general information about being a good neighbor to the Forest?
Visit our Living Next Door To The Shawnee Brochure to open the link to our brochure Living Next Door To the Shawnee National Forest.

16. How large is the Shawnee National Forest? Where is it located?
The Shawnee National Forest is comprised of approximately 287,000 acres. It is located in the southern tip of Illinois between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

Click here to open our Shawnee National Forest Guide, which includes a map of the Forest.

17. Do you have America the Beautiful or Federal Recreation Passes available at your offices?
Yes. We have Senior, Access and Annual Passes available during regular office hours. If you have questions about the program, you may contact us at 1-800-MY-WOODS. Visit USGS Store to access additional information on the Federal Recreation Pass Program or contact USGS at 1-888-ASK-USGS (1-888- 275-8747).

18. I want to hunt or fish on the Shawnee? What regulations apply?
 Illinois State regulations apply on the Shawnee as well as some additional regulations specific to the Forest. Visit Hunting on the Shawnee National Forest to access Forest related hunting information. Visit Illinois Department of Natural Resources to access the state regulations or to view their Hunting and Trapping Digest. Leave No Trace ethics apply to all visits to the Shawnee.

Fishing: Fishing is free on the Shawnee for those 15 years of age and younger. An Illinois fishing license is required for anyone over the age of 15. Visit Illinois Department of Natural Resources to access the state regulations and information on how to purchase your fishing license or contact IDNR at 1-217-782-6302.

19. What about wildlife, snakes, etc.?
For any information on wildlife and snakes you might encounter on the Shawnee or in southern Illinois, visit Illinois Department of Natural Resources. For your safety and theirs, please do not bother or harass wildlife or snakes.

20. I am a school teacher. How do I request a visit from an environmental education resource person (e.g. a visit from Smokey Bear and a fire prevention program)?
Click here Shawnee Forest Mailroom to contact us through our Forest Mailroom, or call us at 1-800-MY-WOODS. Please contact us at least two weeks in advance to allow time to check on the availability of resources, plan, coordinate and schedule your program.

21. What agency manages the Shawnee National Forest?
The Shawnee is managed by the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.