I’m sitting in the trees drinking coffee. Well, not really, it just feels that way. On a cool summer morning following a stormy overnight, I am on the porch of my third floor room at Shawnee Lodge & Conference Center in southeast Ohio and loving every minute of it.
The sky is clearing and the only sounds I hear are the birds singing. I spy a woodpecker among the leaves-but sadly he is camera shy and flees the moment I reach for mine. Such is life. Only then do I see the squirrel sitting quietly on a nearby branch. He is as oblivious to me as I was to him only moments ago.
This will be a good morning.
Nestled within the Shawnee State Forest, where the Appalachian foothills greet the Ohio River, the Lodge and park offer up a multitude of activities for everyone. Exploring the property, you wonder about those who came before you. Not just the families on vacation, but the Shawnee Indians who lived on the 63,000 acres that now encompass the forest. Historians state that Shawnee means “those who have silver” and it was on these lands that they traded until settlers claimed this area as their own. With each hill and every tree, it’s hard not to be curious about how they lived and whether their view and vantage points differ from mine today. Today, the Lodge seeks to respect the history of the land and people with vignettes and programs throughout the property.
In 1949, the land Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Division of Parks and Recreation created the park that several generations have treasured as a natural retreat ever since.
The Lodge itself is packed with amenities and features two swimming pools, hot tub, sauna, tennis courts, playground, game room, gift shop, and lounge-to name a few. There are plenty of cozy spots inside and outside to relax. From overstuffed chairs in front of massive fireplaces, to rocking chairs where you can take in panoramic vistas. The area has been referred to as “The Little Smokies” and sitting here writing this, I can definitely see why. The rooms are comfortable and well-appointed with quality linens, and those extras many parks don’t offer, like coffee makers, hair dryers and mini-fridges. The Lodge makes a great destination for reunions, meetings and special events (including weddings) and has reception and meeting spaces available. The nearby cottages can accommodate up to six people each.
Dining is a delicious distraction from Mother Nature and the O-Hee-Yuh Restaurant manages to be spacious and intimate at the same time with many menu choices. I am still thinking about the Shawnee Forest Salad topped with strawberries, goat cheese and walnuts and tossed in a delightful vinaigrette that was followed with the mushroom ravioli that was also a standout. Breakfast the next morning was the Croissant French Toast served with warm syrup. Simply delicious. The atmosphere is casual and the menu changes with the seasons. The staff is efficient, friendly and happy to recommend their personal favorite dishes to you.
The Park offers camping, many hiking trails and bridle trails as well as equine camping. Outdoor offerings are in abundance, from fishing to an 18-hole golf course, there is something for every traveler to enjoy. Public beaches can be found on Turkey Creek and Roosevelt Lakes, you can rent rowboats and canoes at Turkey Creek Lake and boaters can visit the nearby Ohio River marina. The camp store is open to all park visitors and here you can rent bikes, boats and have access to the miniature golf course. The nature center has a variety of programs and exhibits, check in advance for a full schedule.
Whether you choose to hike these ancient hills, sit by the pool with a good book or settle in on your porch with a cup of coffee, the relaxing atmosphere here fits the bill.
For families, couples or someone just needing a break, Shawnee Lodge has it all.
Rich in history, rich in relaxation.
Shawnee Lodge & Conference Center
4404B State Route 125
West Portsmouth, Ohio 45663