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Shawnee State Park: A Virtual Playground

WEST PORTSMOUTH — Tucked within 63,000 acres of Shawnee State Forest lies a wonder of nature in the Appalachian foothills called Shawnee State Park.

With its several hundred thousand visitors a year, the park, which covers more than 1,000 acres itself, has been offering locals as well as people around the world a retreat from the day-to-day monotony for decades.

And with the recent surge in gasoline prices, many people in the region and state are opting to stay a little closer to home this year for their vacations.

One of those families making the trek to Shawnee was the Crouches, of Bethel, a city about 15 miles east of Cincinnati.

Christina Crouch, who came with her husband, Eddie, and their four children, said Shawnee State Park was the perfect spot for them to vacation.

“We came down here Monday and are staying for three days,” Christina said. “We’ll probably come down here one more time before summer ends.”

Aside from the proximity to their home, the Crouches were attracted to Shawnee because of its large number of activities for their children: Jason, 2; Jordan, 4; JoAnna, 7; and John 8.

The Crouches decided to pitch their tents at camp site 75, which Christina said is perfect because it has easy access to a creek and the smaller of Shawnee’s two lakes — Roosevelt.

Roosevelt, along with the other, much larger Turkey Creek Lake, make up for 68 acres of the park.

Choosing to vacation a little further from home was the Rushe Family, from Pittsburgh, Penn.

Scott and wife Erin Rushe were staying at the park as part of a family reunion.

“About 30 members of our extended family are renting about six or seven cottages for the week,” Erin said as she blew bubbles to her 5-year-old daughter, Skylar.

The park’s 25 cottages, which book for between $125 and $199 daily each, are within walking distance of the lodge.

“Something like this is a rare opportunity for the kids,” said Scott, who added that it’s very hard to find peace in the hustle and bustle of Pittsburgh.

“We been swimming, hiking and rented a canoe,” Erin said of her time at the park. “We’ve had a lot of fun.”

Kevin Bradbury, park manager, said the park is full of activities, such as the Trout Derby in April and the Catfish Tournament, which is set for Aug. 19 at Roosevelt Lake.

“Scioto County has the most recreation land of any county in the state,” Bradbury said. “And Lawrence County is second.”

He said the annual fall hike, which is scheduled for “Appalachian Weekend,” on Sept. 9 is a popular event.

“We take about a 5- or 6-mile hike with a rest stop in the middle where we eat apple butter and hot biscuits before heading back out,” Bradbury said.

“It’s just a really nice time of year.”

And for those who don’t like to “rough it,” the park’s 25 cottages are available to rent all-year long.

The cottages at Shawnee come standard with two bedrooms, a bath with a shower, living room with a roll-away bed, complete kitchen, phone, dining area, porch, and — for the premium cottage — a Jacuzzi.

Guest of the cottages have the same access to the park’s features as available to lodge guests, including an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, game room, sauna, Jacuzzi, tennis, basketball and shuffleboard courts and more.

Bradbury recommended calling in advance to book a cottage as the waiting period can be quite lengthy in the summer.

For those who prefer to stay outdoors, the park offers walking trails, fishing, hunting, picnicking, boat rentals, an 18-hole championship golf course on the Ohio River, launch ramps and ice fishing in the winter.

Some features of Shawnee State Forest — which is the largest in Ohio — include 42 miles of backpack trails, more than 70 miles of bridle trails, horsemen’s campground and an 8,000-acre wilderness area and five small fishing lakes.

The forest is also a part of the coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail, which starts in Delaware and ends in San Francisco, as well as other trails.

“A boy came through the Sea-to-Sea trail last year and traveled 5,000 miles,” Bradbury said. “It took him from summer to spring to finish.”

Bradbury was also quick to tout the park’s naturalist Jenny Richards, who is a “rock star to the kids,” he said.

Richards was awarded the Bill Price award from the state, which is given out to one naturalist in Ohio every year.

Bradbury said that packages are available for those who want to play a little golf, and added that it’s not as far as people think to drive from Lawrence County to Shawnee State Park.

“We’re in one big playground here,” he said.

For those wanting to “play” at Shawnee, more information is available at (740) 858-6652 or by logging on to ohiod

nr.com/parks/parks/shawnee.htm.

General Forest Rules

4Shawnee State Forest is open to visitors between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily. Legal campers, hunters and anglers may be present during other hours.

4Operation of motor vehicles is restricted to roads provided for such travel. The speed limit on state forest roads is 30 mph unless otherwise posted. Vehicles may not be parked where traffic or access to division service roads or trails will be obstructed.

4Horses may be ridden only along forest roads or on designated bridle trails.

4Swimming and motorized boats, except with electric motors, are prohibited in state forest lakes.

4Fires are not permitted except in grills or fire rings provided or in portable stoves. Fires must be attended at all times.

4Litter must be disposed of in receptacles provided.

4Camping is permitted only in areas provided and designated for such use.

4Public display or consumption of any alcoholic beverage is prohibited.

4Disturbance, defacement or destruction of any property, material, natural feature or vegetation is prohibited. Berries, nuts and mushrooms may be gathered and removed except from tree seed orchards or posted areas.