Saving Shawnee Forest

Explore the History of “Ohio’s Little Smokies.” Full of salt licks, the rugged hills and narrow creek bottoms of Shawnee Forest have long made it a popular hunting ground. The Moundbuilders and Shawnee of old, as well as the descendants of American pioneers, have all tracked deer and other game here. Its steep ridges and intermittent creeks wrote the region’s fate -- these hills and hollows cannot be farmed or grazed to any great extent and thus they appear perfectly designed for growing trees. “The hills descend precipitously to the valley below and present a long line of rocky prominences,” wrote Nelson Evans in 1903. “The country back from the river,” he described as “very rough and broken, and not adapted to tillage.” What good farm land there was could be found in the bottoms of Turkey Creek, Pond Run, and Upper Twin Creek.

Explore Shawnee Forest and learn about the human and natural history of Ohio’s “Little Smokies.” Start at Ohio’s largest Yellow Buckeye tree next to the Methodist Church in Friendship, near where Maj. John Belli made the first American settlement at the Mouth of Turkey Creek in the 1790s. Then follow the roads, trails, and creeks through the last two-hundred years of these Appalachian foothills. Learn of the Old Forest’s destruction in the decades following American settlement in the nineteenth century, and how the forest was first saved by the conservation movement of the Progressive Era. Visit an ancient roost of the now extinct Passenger Pigeon, contemplate the ruins of the Roosevelt Preserve Headquarters, where white-tail deer (once hunted to extirpation) were successfully reintroduced in the 1920s.

Learn about the work of scientists and naturalists who played key roles in promoting the conservation of Shawnee Forest over the course of the twentieth century. Follow in the footsteps of Floyd Chapman, Lucy Braun, Harry Knighton and other noted specialists in the Forest’s plant and wildlife. Since the beginning of state enforcement of poaching laws in the early twentieth-century to the introduction of clear-cutting in the 1950s and up to the recent controversies surrounding prescribed burns, the management of the forest and its wildlife has long been a contentious issue with some demanding greater protections for the wildlife and tighter restrictions on the logging of state lands and others who would support the loosening of restrictions on the exploitation of the Forest’s natural resources.

Walk the logging roads of a recent selective cut on Forest Road 6, where members of Save Our Shawnee Forest have worked to document the effects of the state’s logging operations. The running debate over forest and wildlife management practices is sure to continue as long as there is public interest in the valuable resources found here. Such interest, it appears, has never abated since the Shawnee first fought to protect these hills as their hunting grounds from the encroachments of the American pioneers.

Maj. John Belli at the Mouth of Turkey Creek

Today, the largest Yellow Buckeye in the State of Ohio stands near the Mouth of Turkey Creek, next to the United Methodist Church in Friendship, Ohio. How old the tree is is hard to determine, but it could date to pioneer times. Captain Larkin…

Snake Hollow & the Old Forest Experiment Station

In the 1930s, Snake Hollow in Shawnee Forest became the location of a wildlife and forestry research station, which received its funding through state and federal conservation programs. One of the station's major cooperative projects involved…

Rocky Hollow & the Work of Dr. E. Lucy Braun

Hike or ride the Mackletree Bridle Trail, which runs up Rocky Hollow and contemplate the life's work of Dr. E. Lucy Braun, the pioneering female naturalist who first comprehended the significance of Shawnee's "mixed mesophytic forest." The Mackletree…

Roosevelt Game Preserve Headquarters in Hobey Hollow

The headquarters for Roosevelt Game Preserve, established in 1922, ought to be considered the first "nature center" in what is now Shawnee State Forest. Located up Harbor Fork of Turkey Creek in what is commonly known as Hobey Hollow, the…

Copperhead Fire Tower

In 1924, after purchasing the first lands for the creation of the Shawnee State Forest, the Division of Forestry constructed three fire towers in the region to help protect the state's newly acquired resources. Today, at the metal…

Harry Knighton Trail & the Shawnee Nature Club

Coming soon! The story of the Shawnee Nature Club and the Harry Knighton Trail in the Shawnee State Park. Harry Knighton, internationally known for his study of fungi, helped found the North American Mycological Association in 1959 and the Shawnee…

Shawnee State Park Nature Center

The Shawnee State Park Nature Center on State Route 125 in Scioto County was originally built (circa 1969) for a privately owned cabin rental complex, known as the High Meadow, which was briefly located on the current site of the Shawnee Park…

Boy Scout Camp Oyo

"HOW!" rang the greeting. "It is indeed a pleasure for me, as a representative of the people who once inhabited this very spot, to come before you, our White Brothers, who are now sitting about our Council Fire. The Council Fire of…

Floyd Chapman & the American Black Bear

Floyd Chapman was a Field Ecologist with the Ohio Division of Conservation and spent much of the later part of the 1930s researching his dissertation on the “Development and Utilization of Wildlife Resources,” here, in what is now Shawnee State…

Vastine Hollow Freestone Quarries

During the second-half of the nineteenth century, Vastine and other hollows of Lower Twin Creek were the center of a major stone quarry industry. Here workers for various firms, including John Mueller's Buena Vista Freestone Company, quarried…

Buckhorn Ridge & William Flagg

Hike or ride along historic Buckhorn Ridge Bridle Trail, which runs through the heart of the Shawnee Wilderness Area, dividing the waters of Upper and Lower Twin Creeks. In the 1850s, William Flagg, a New York City businessman-turned novel writer,…