Shimek Forest is located just south of Bonaparte, a stone’s throw north of Kahoka, MO, and a short drive west of Donnellson. The Shimek Forest is made up of five separate units: Croton, Donnellson, Farmington, Lick Creek, and Keosauqua, which each have their own set of hiking trails, swimming and hunting areas, and unique ecosystems.
Managed by the Iowa DNR Forestry Bureau, this forest features several biodiverse habitats. Around 9,148 acres of land in total, the Shimek State Forest is perfect for hiking, wildlife viewing, and water activities. Four lakes in the boundaries of the forest are stocked with fish to support both the ecosystem and visiting anglers. The landscape is mostly oak-hickory forests and bottomland hardwood forests with scattered prairies throughout.
Shimek State Forest is preserved in its beauty and natural wonder, with lush greens and thriving wildlife. Shimek State Forest campers can find themselves fishing, biking, or horseback riding, to name a few activities. The possibilities are nearly endless at Shimek State forest. Just start by booking an RV in Van Buren or Lee County and begin planning your trip.
Fishing at Shimek State Forest is a breeze. There are four lakes to choose from within the forest, all of which have been stocked with fish. Anglers will find an abundance of largemouth bass, catfish, and a variety of panfish. Find your perfect spot and drop a line into the water and see where the day takes you. Electrical and non-motorized boats are permitted on the lakes.
Wildlife viewing at Shimek State Forest is one of the biggest draws to the area. Due to the multiple habitats and sprawling landscape, the animals you might see will vary depending on where you are in the forest. Squirrels, skunks, muskrats, opossums, and foxes call this place home. Birders will be happy to hear there are plenty of songbirds, turkey, wren, and waterfowl in the area. While there are a number of non-poisonous snakes, two venomous species reside within the forest, so make sure to look out for rattlesnakes and copperheads.
Planning to bring your horse with you to camp at Shimek State Forest? You’re in luck! Not only are there a series of trails specifically built for horseback riding, but you can rest up at a number of equestrian campsites. Shimek State Forest provides everything you need for a trot across a scenic backdrop and a nice comfortable place to return to.
Camping at Shimek State Forest
The Donnellson and Farmington units each feature a small campground with fewer than 11 primitive sites. These sites are all allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Lick Creek unit of Shimek State Forest contains two equestrian campgrounds with a handful of sites. These are very primitive campsites and don’t provide any hookups for motorhome rentals. Most sites come with fire rings, picnic tables, gravel pads, and hitching posts for the horses.
Certain amenities in the forest are accessible for guests with disabilities. The forest offers both flush and vault toilets. The staff at the camper registration building can answer any questions you may have regarding the forest or campgrounds. In an effort to keep the area clean, trash receptacles are provided.
Exploring the Area
When you're ready to venture out into the surrounding area, Ottumwa isn’t too far away, and it's a great place for a day trip. If it gets too hot and you want to cool off in style, visit Beach Ottumwa. This indoor/outdoor waterpark is fun for all ages and an exciting way to beat the heat. Ottumwa is also home to the famous American Gothic house that inspired the painting. Or check out the Aviation Museum. Did you also know that Ottumwa is the Video Game Capital of the World? Learn all about the history of video games at the Video Game Capital of the World Museum. There's no shortage of entertainment in Ottumwa.
Another short drive out of the park will take you to Bentonsport. The Bentonsport National Historic Center takes pride in its small-town atmosphere and big character. Take a walk through the historic town center and stop into an antique shop or museum. Go to a local craft store or artisan shop, or if you’re lucky, there might be a fun event happening in town. Get some homemade fudge and share it with your loved ones on a park bench.
While you’re in the area, make sure to head over to Keosauqua and visit the Indian Artifact Museum. Built by Iowan Tony Sanders, this collection of native artifacts began growing when he was eight years old. There are now over 5,000 artifacts in the collection for visitors to enjoy. Learn all about the area’s history through uncovered artifacts that were used long before the European explorers even stepped foot in Iowa.
When your motorhome camping trip has come to a close, you’re free to fill up the gas tank of your camper rental at any of the many gas stations surrounding the forest. Also, with all the cuisine in the nearby villages, you’re sure to be hitting the road with a full belly. Shimek State Forest isn’t too close to any big cities, but it's about equidistant from Chicago, Kansas City, and St. Louis.