Shawnee State Park and Forest in south central Ohio are the perfect playground for those who love the outdoors.
Set in the Appalachian foothills near the banks of the Ohio River, the 1,095-acre state park is part of the 63,000-acre Shawnee State Forest, where visitors can enjoy a number of activities on land or water.
Named for the Shawnee Indians who hunted the area, the region is full of natural, rugged beauty of valleys and wooded hills that have earned it the nickname “The Little Smokies.”
The name Shawnee means “those who have silver” and the tribe was known for being significant traders of precious metal. The Shawnee village known as “Lower Town” was located near the confluence of the Ohio and Scioto rivers, providing access to Ohio’s Shawnee country and beyond.
Although the Shawnee Indians were displaced in the 1700s as settlers moved into the area and built cabins, much of the forest appears close to what it looked like three centuries ago.
In 1922, land was acquired for the park and it was originally known as Theodore Roosevelt State Game Preserve. Civilian Conservation Corps came to the area in the 1930s and created many of the roads and lakes. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Division of Parks and Recreation designated the area as Shawnee State Park and Forest in 1949. For a short time, the park was renamed Portsmouth State Park.
With an abundance of trails to peruse, on a hike you can take in many varieties of wildflowers, including some rare types of orchids, such as whorled oogonia and showy orchis. Among the wildlife you may encounter on the grounds are wild turkey and white-tailed deer. There are also rare sightings of bobcats and black bears. Ten named, marked trails range from 0.8 miles to 40-plus miles. There are also 75-plus miles of bridle trails with 58 primitive equestrian camp sites.
Boating is available on Roosevelt and Turkey Creek lakes, which total 68 acres. Rowboats, canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards and pedal boats are available for rental at the camp store. Both lakes also have public beaches for swimming at your own risk (no pets are allowed). Five picnic areas are equipped with grills and there are two accessible picnic shelters at Lake Roosevelt.
Fishing is available in two well-stocked lakes of bass, catfish, bluegill, trout and crappie. The park also features an 18-hole championship golf course and pro-shop near the marina on the Ohio River. Additional amenities include a nature center open Memorial Day through Labor Day, playground equipment, an archery range, miniature golf, volleyball and basketball courts, tennis courts and horseshoe pits.
The park has 102 sites available for tents or trailers, two camper cabins and 25 two-bedroom family cottages that sleep up to six, in addition to the park’s lodge. Shawnee’s flagstone and cedar lodge has 50 room with indoor and outdoor pools, a restaurant, lounge, game room and gift shop. Visit the lodge’s website at shawneeparklodge.com for several available discounts, including an offer of up to $50 off by showing a child’s ‘A’-filled report card.
Coming up April 28 and 29 at the park is the Morel Mushroom Mania event with an informational talk, morel hunting competition and the “Great Mushroom Cookoff.”
The park is located 13 miles from Portsmouth, Ohio. Shop for antiques in the town’s Historic Boneyfiddle District and view the Portsmouth Murals, with an artistic depiction of 2000 years of the region’s history.
For more information on the Shawnee State Park and Forest at parks.ohionr.gov.