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Shimek State Forest

Farmington, IA 52626

One of Iowa's best kept secrets may be Shimek State Forest nestled along the Des Moines River in the far southeast tip of the state. Nearly 9,000 acres of oak and hickory hills and valleys, with pine plantations interspersed, can afford the visitor a look at a multi-purpose woodland used for timber production, wildlife management, and recreational opportunities.

The forest is named after the late Dr. Bohumil Shimek, an Iowa naturalist and former University of Iowa professor. During the 1930s, Shimek convinced the state to acquire vanishing forestland in Lee and Van Buren counties along with abandoned farms, which were depleted because of more than a century of farming. Then referred to as the “Lee and Van Buren State Forest,” work began to reforest the open areas. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted many acres of hardwood and softwood stands. These northern and southern species were trial demonstrations to determine adaptability to Iowa’s climate. The pines that predominate today, Eastern white pine and red pine, have shown that the northern species have fared the best.

Land acquisition continued until pre-World War II days. The name was changed again sometime during the 1940s to the “Farmington State Forest.” Through an appropriation by the Iowa General Assembly in 1964, an additional 3,000 acres were added in a purchase from the US Forest Service. These 3,000 acres were part of a larger holding intended to be part of the proposed “Hawkeye National Forest.” Reasons are still unclear as to why this national forest was dropped; however, the state forest system benefited greatly. In 1950 Iowa honored the late Dr. Bohumil Shimek by naming the largest contiguous stand of state-owned forest after him.

Forestry demonstrations within Shimek include various plantings, thinnings, and harvests with the emphasis on sustained yield management for the dominant white and red oaks, used for veneer and sawlogs. Through private contractors, timber stand improvement or thinnings have been done to increase health and vigor of remaining trees. 

Because Shimek, as well as other state forests, are considered public hunting areas, hunters may find excellent wild turkey and white-tailed deer hunting in season. Resident and non-resident hunters can also enjoy squirrel, rabbit, quail and many other species of small game when they are in season.

Fishing any time of the year in one of many small lakes in the area could yield a limit of largemouth bass, channel catfish or several types of panfish. Only electric trolling motors are allowed on the ponds and small lakes.

The woodlands also provide opportunities for primitive camping at one of four campgrounds. Two of these, located in Donnellson Unit and one in Farmington Unit, are designed for use by the equestrian camper, with more than 25 trails available.

2019 Rates: Camping - $9 Primitive (May - Sept.) $6 Primitive (Oct. - April); Equestrian - $12 (May - Sept.) $9 (Oct. - Apr.).  Online Reservations System

Scenic hiking trails honeycomb the remaining Croton, Donnellson, Farmington and Keosauqua units. Picnicking, nature study, fishing, hunting, cross-country skiing, limited snowmobiling, bicycling, mushroom hunting, hiking and horseback riding are all available at Shimek.

 Winter sports include cross country skiing, limited snowmobiling trails, and ice fishing. Equestrian trails and camping facilities are available at Lick Creek Unit. Picnic tables, cooking sites, and primitive camping are available throughout the forest. Pets allowed.

Download a Shimek Hiking Map

Download a Shimek Horse Trail Map