Timber Rattlesnakes are a protected species (due to low/decreasing population). They are rarely seen. Copperhead snakes are more frequently encountered - in the woods, on the trail, or even on the campground. Of course, avoidance is your best defense against these critters. Take extra caution if hiking off-trail and watch your step!
You'll be happy to hear that we have very few mosquitoes here!!! Especially those of you from further North will enjoy being able to sit around the campsite at dusk.
However, ticks are very prevalent in this area, and they peak in early June. Repellent spray (especially around your ankles) is the best defense. The annoying critters like to hang out in the underbrush, so again take extra caution off-trail.
Ground Bees are the most dreaded pest. They are not actually bees, but hornets. They build underground hives and if located near to a trail the concussion of the horses hooves will agitate them to emerge eager to sting the 'invader' to their turf. The best defense when encountered is to stay on your horse and get away FAST! They may follow you for a distance down the trail, so go 100 yards or more to be sure. Ground Bee activity varies greatly from year to year depending on weather conditions. For example, in 2007 there was a flash-flood on July 5th in these parts that (apparently) flooded out the bees in their hives, so we were blessed with very very few bees that year. And in 2012 the drought weakened the bees in both number and vigor. Typically their activity peaks in late August/early September and then declines as the weather gets cooler, ending with the first frost. Larger groups of riders have more potential to encounter bees. The first few riders past the hive ,'wake up' the bees, and they emerge ready to attack by the time the 4th or so rider goes by. Smaller groups (2-3 people) have a greater chance to get past the hive safely.
There were previously restrictions on bringing firewood from neighboring states and from Central or Northern Illinois, but these restrictions have been removed in 2016. Use of local firewood is encouraged to protect our beloved forest from destructive insects (like emerald ash borer) and invasive disease (like Sudden Oak Death Disease).
We do sell firewood here at the campground. A cute video about transporting firewood:
The Shawnee National Forest does not have requirements for 'weed-free' hay, so you are free to bring your own from home. We usually have hay for sale, contact us to confirm availability
A cool trip planner can be found at the link below.
The closest listed town in Simpson, IL. Look at your proposed dates of travel and it will tell you historically the average temperature, high/lows, number of rain days, etc, during that month. Notice the historical highs and lows. Even if the average high is, say, 70, be prepared for highly variable weather if the historical highs range from 37 to 97 !!!
When packing for your trip, include extra electric cord, water hose, and septic hose. Due to the many trees on the campsites your electric/water supply post or septic stub may be up to 30 feet from your parking pad. Don't forget a manure fork to clean pens (put in wheeled cart provided at your campsite and we will empty daily).
If your campsite includes a covered/matted stall you may use without bedding, or you may bring your own bedding or we sell bagged bedding here at the camp store.
Always call ahead for hay availability, but we usually have grass and alfalfa hay for sale.
In the campground store we sell ice, firewood, hay, horse bedding, sodas, ice cream novelties, and commonly needed items such as batteries, toiletries, lighter fluid/charcoal, and snacks. We also have souvenir items such as coffee cups, hats, tee shirts & sweatshirts.
The nearest restaurant is only 1 mile from Hayes Canyon Campground. Shotgun Eddy's in Eddyville is completely remodeled and under new ownership Spring 2020. They welcome trail riders with hitching rails and cold drinks.
The Shawnee Mart gas station and convenience store in Eddyville -- CLOSED AS OF SPRING 2019.
The nearest full grocery store is 12 miles East of Eddyville in Golconda, a quiet town on the Ohio River. There you will also find gas, diesel, bars, restaurants, and a Dollar General.
Only 19 miles North of Eddyville on Hwy 145 is Harrisburg. There you will find a 24-hour Super Wal-Mart, other grocery stores, many restaurants (mexican, italian, BBQ, chinese buffet, etc) and fast food. There also is a Tractor Supply Company and a Rural King in Harrisburg (both are farm stores with equine sections).
About 15 miles North of Eddyville is Hathaway's Feed, Fuel, and Garden Shop. Here you will find propane re-fills and horse feed.
23 miles from Eddyville in the town of Elizabethtown is the E-Town River Restaurant. It is a very casual fish restaurant that is floating on a pontoon on the Ohio River. Walk the gangplank sidewalk, watch the barges go by. Great and FRESH catfish!
In Marion (40 miles) IL you will find McKinney's Western Store. They have hundreds of saddles, bridles, apparel, and every sort of horse equipment under the sun! www.mckinneyswesternstore.com
South of Eddyville 28 miles on Hwy 145 will take you to Metropolis IL, home of a Harrah's Riverboat Casino, restaurants, and the giant Superman statue guarding the town square. See Local Attractions page for more info. Another 7 miles to Paucah, KY, where there is a mall, antiques, shopping, and the national Quilt museum. The mall area has many restaurants, mostly of the chain variety (Outback Steakhouse, Cracker Barrel, Red Lobster, etc etc). The downtown area (along the Ohio River) has more eclectic dining, theaters, and coffee shops.
It is highly recommended to have your equine shod x4. Some visitors use hoof boots successfully, but this takes advance preparation and be sure the boots fit securely or it could be expensive and frustrating. Those with sensitive hooves may benefit from pads. Barefoot horses will find the flat ledges of limestone rock encountered on trail much more slippery than to shod horses. For a short weekend with a strong-hooved horse front shoes alone may be adequate, but again, we highly recommend having shoes x4 .
No, there is no extra charge for 'extra' people on your campsite.
However, if you are camping with horses and are bringing more than 2 horses then there is a $5/night charge per extra horse (over 2) for the extra pens. We will make every effort to arrange for extra pens as close to your campsite as possible, but depending on your location in camp and how full the camp is, those extra horses may not be close to your campsite.
If you have Verizon service you'll have the best chance of getting a spotty signal in the Shawnee National Forest. Verizon signal is available (most days) in scattered locations on camp and on the trails, but may not be available at your specific campsite.
In case of emergency, your family can call the camp office at (618)672-4751 and leave a message for you. We'll tape a note to your camper door if you are not there.
We do have free wi-fi signal at the front office, so bring your phone/tablet/ laptop and make yourself comfortable on our covered porch with chairs and outlets to plug in if needed.
The trails are definitely marked better then they were in the past. A few short years ago there was no mapped trail system and little to no trail markings.
The Shawnee National Forest trail system is an extensive system with variety and a multitude of trails. The sheer mileage of trails and multiple intersections and options can be challenging for first-time visitors, but it is also what keeps people coming back time and time again. For example, if there was only one single route to take to get from camp to Crow Knob then it would be ‘easier’ to find. However, there are several different routes that can be taken, so there are options for longer or shorter routes, more challenging or easier routes, flatter or hillier routes, creekside or highland routes, long level ‘gaiting’ trails or rocky bluffside trails, you get the picture.
You will be riding in a 300.000 acre National Forest, with literally hundreds of miles of trails. You will be riding in Wilderness areas, where the riding can be expected to be mentally and physically challenging for you and your horse, but also breathtakingly beautiful.
As a first-time visitor, you can expect to need to use your map (issued when you check-in) and a compass (or a GPS). You can NOT expect to just ride out ‘blind’ and cannot expect that every intersection will point you back to camp. At most trail intersections will be a sign, for example saying that the intersection is trail 496 with trail 493. Then you will look at your map and find out that you want to take trail 493 heading North to get back to camp, then use your compass to make sure you do head North on 493.
Hayes Canyon no longer has guide service available, due to the rising cost of insurance required by the Forest Service. Often there are local neighbors or permanent lot renters who will welcome you along.
Hopefully this information makes your expectations realistic. Come see what keeps visitors returning to the Shawnee year after year from all over the country.