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Iowa State Parks

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USA Parks
Southeast Region
Shimek State Forest
Eastern Goldfinch ©
Eastern Goldfinch
Eastern Goldfinch ©
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33653 Route J56
Farmington, Iowa   52626

Phone: 319-878-3811
Reservations: 319-878-3811
Email: park email button icon
Shimek State Forest, located in Iowa, is a breathtaking natural enclave that encompasses over 9,000 acres of pristine woodlands, captivating visitors with its diverse flora and fauna. Stretching across the steep and scenic bluffs of the Des Moines River, this enchanting forest boasts an extensive network of hiking trails, gently meandering through thick oak and hickory forests, vibrant prairies, and tranquil streams. As visitors wander through this serene landscape, they are treated to stunning vistas of limestone cliffs, wildflower meadows, and limestone caves, offering a glimpse into the unique biodiversity that thrives within this protected area. With its tranquil ambiance and abundant recreational opportunities, such as camping, fishing, and bird-watching, the Shimek State Forest offers a rejuvenating escape into nature, leaving visitors in awe of its captivating beauty.
Nature of the Area
Shimek State Forest is a pristine natural haven characterized by its diverse and enchanting landscapes. This sprawling forest encompasses over 9,000 acres of serene woodlands, encompassing steep bluffs, deep ravines, and rolling hills that create a mesmerizing scenery for visitors. The forest's unique biodiversity is showcased through its various plant species, including towering oak and hickory trees, delicate wildflowers, and vibrant ferns. Numerous hiking trails meander through the forest, allowing nature enthusiasts to immerse themselves in its peaceful ambiance while encountering an array of wildlife, such as white-tailed deer, turkeys, and foxes. With its tranquil atmosphere, stunning vistas, and abundant natural wonders, Shimek State Forest offers a captivating escape into the heart of Iowa's natural beauty.
History of the Area
Shimek State Forest, located in the southeastern part of Iowa, has a rich history that stretches back to prehistoric times. Here is an overview of its history:

Prehistoric Era: The region was inhabited by prehistoric cultures such as the Woodland and Late Prehistoric Indians. Archaeological evidence like burial mounds and artifacts found in the forest indicate human occupation dating back thousands of years.

European Settlement: The area was first explored by French fur traders in the 17th century. Later, European settlers arrived in the early 19th century. The state forest is named after Olof Shimek, a Czech immigrant who settled in the area.

Reforestation Efforts: By the late 19th century, much of the land had been cleared for agriculture, resulting in soil erosion and loss of wildlife habitat. To combat this, the state initiated reforestation projects in the early 20th century. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a New Deal program introduced during the Great Depression, played a significant role in reforestation efforts.

Establishment of the State Forest: In 1935, Shimek State Forest was officially established. The forest was named after Olof Shimek to honor his contributions to soil conservation and reforestation efforts. The state forest encompasses an area of about 9,000 acres and is divided into three units: the north, south, and east units.

Conservation and Recreation: Shimek State Forest has been managed with a focus on conservation and recreation. The forest provides habitat for various wildlife species and serves as an important corridor for migratory birds. It offers opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and bird-watching.

Old-Growth Forest: One notable feature of Shimek State Forest is the presence of old-growth forests in the east unit. These forests contain trees that are over 200 years old and are designated as national natural landmarks. The ancient trees and diverse ecosystems provide a glimpse into the area's natural heritage.

Today, Shimek State Forest continues to serve as an important ecological and recreational area for residents and visitors of Iowa. Its history and natural beauty make it a significant part of the state's heritage.
 Hiking Trailyes
 Swimming Beachyes
 Bridle Trailsyes
1. Shimek State Forest Campground: This campground offers both RV and tent camping with basic amenities like restrooms, picnic tables, fire rings etc.

2. Lick Creek Equestrian Camp: Located in the heart of Shimek State Forest, this camp is perfect for horse lovers as it provides hitching rails and water troughs along with campsites.

3. Farmington City Park & Camping Area: Just a short drive from the forest area, this park has numerous sites available for tents or trailers/RVs that come equipped with electric hookups.

4. Indian Lake Park - Van Buren County Conservation Board: About 20 minutes away from Shimek state forest, they offer primitive camping to full service modern facilities including cabins rental options.

5. Keosauqua Riverfront Cabins And Rv Sites: Offers cabin rentals which are fully furnished also have rv parking spots.

6. Bentonsport Riverside Hideaway Cabin Rentals: They provide private log cabins overlooking Des Moines river just few miles away from shemik state forests.

7. Sugar Bottom Campgrounds: Although about an hour's drive north of Shimak but its worth considering if you're planning on visiting other parts Iowa too.
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1. Lick Creek Unit Trails: These trails are located in the largest unit of Shimek State Forest, offering a variety of terrains and scenic views.

2. Donnellson Unit Trail: This trail is perfect for beginners with its flat terrain and well-marked paths through dense forest areas.

3. Farmington Unit Trail: A moderate difficulty level hiking path that winds around several ponds, providing beautiful water views along your hike.

4. Keosauqua Unit Trails: Offers multiple interconnected loops allowing hikers to customize their distance while enjoying diverse landscapes including hardwood forests, prairies, wetlands and river bluffs.

5. Croton Units Hiking Paths: Known for bird watching opportunities as it passes through different habitats attracting various species throughout the year.

6. Pioneer Ridge Nature Area Trails: Located near Shimek State Forest these trails offer panoramic vistas from atop ridge lines overlooking valleys below.

7. Lacey:Keosauqua State Park Loop: Although not directly within Shimek state forest this nearby loop offers additional miles of rugged woodland hikes featuring steep climbs & descents.

8. Equestrian/Horseback Riding Trials: Several units have designated equestrian trials which can also be used by hikers but shared use etiquette must be followed.

9. Cross Country Skiing/Snowshoeing Routes: During winter months certain sections become popular routes for cross country skiing or snow shoeing.

10. Campground Accessible Short Walks: For those staying overnight at one of many campgrounds there are short walks available leading to picnic spots or fishing points.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
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1. Starting from the city of Keokuk, head south on Main Street.
2. Continue south on Main Street until you reach the intersection with 10th Street.
3. Turn left onto 10th Street and continue for approximately 0.5 miles.
4. Take a right onto Bank Street, and continue for about 0.2 miles.
5. Merge onto US-61 South via the ramp on the left to Farmington/Donnellson.
6. Continue on US-61 South for approximately 16.5 miles.
7. Take the exit onto US-218 South toward Mt. Pleasant.
8. Continue on US-218 South for around 18 miles, then take the exit toward IA-2 East toward Farmington.
9. Merge onto IA-2 East and continue for about 6.4 miles.
10. Turn left onto 160th Avenue and continue for approximately 3.2 miles.
11. Shimek State Forest will be on the right.

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Iowa State Parks