WORTH THE DRIVE: ‘Ohio’s Little Smokies’ to expand by more than 1,200 acres

Shawnee State Forest, Ohio’s largest continuous block of forest, is expanding.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz and Governor Mike DeWine announced on Jan. 6 that Shawnee State Forest will expand by 1,252 acres. The additional acreage, which goes into effect immediately, brings the forest’s total to 65,987 acres.

Shawnee State Park’s headquarters is located at 13291 US-52 in West Portsmouth, Ohio. The forest, a two-hour drive from downtown Dayton, is a popular destination for the local outdoors and hiking community.

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Most of the newly acquired land was already completely forested, according to Stephanie O’Grady, ODNR communications officer.

“By growing Shawnee State Forest, we are securing, protecting and conserving important land in Ohio for the future,” DeWine said. “The expansion will significantly increase Ohio’s largest contiguous block of forest, enhancing biodiversity and providing a mix of recreational opportunities, as well as other direct and indirect benefits to all Ohioans.”

The expansion will also allow for a section of the Buckeye Trail to be rerouted off the road and through the wooded area.

“This partnership with the Buckeye Trail Association will provide people with an amazing opportunity to see our largest state forest,” Mertz said. “More public land under conservation management will protect water quality, improve wildlife habitat and forest products, increase recreational opportunities, and improve ecosystem services for the local community and people all over the state.”

Once the hunting grounds of the Shawnee, this region – located in the Appalachian foothills near the banks of the Ohio River – is one of the most picturesque in the state, featuring erosion-carved valleys and wooded hills. The rugged beauty of the area has earned it the nickname, “Ohio’s Little Smokies.”

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