Touch of Nature Forest

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Rocky Ledges with Little Grassy Lake

Touch of Nature Forest

The Touch of Nature Forest serves as an outdoor learning laboratory for students studying forestry within the SIU College of Agricultural Sciences.  The forest also provides opportunities for researchers from other parts of Southern Illinois University, other universities and colleges, federal and state agencies, and private organizations.  Formerly known as SIU’s Outdoor Laboratory, the Touch of Nature forest has been the site of both short- and long-term studies for more than 50 years. 

Forest Management Plan

 land management map

With financial support from the SIUC Sustainability Council Green Fund, TONEC is working with the Department of Forestry to develop a 10 year Land management Plan to help us assess our current forest and recreational resources so we can plan to expand our outreach, education, and recreational resources to the SIUC and southern Illinois community.  Under the direction of Professors Holzmueller and Ruffner, the research team of undergraduate and graduate students have been inventoring forests and wildlife habitat as well as mapping everything from current hiking trails and future bike trails. This assessment along with Management Objectives will be used to write a 10 year Land Management Plan for the entire 3200 acre TONEC properties in Jackson and Union counties.  


high ropes course

Touch of Nature offers guests, students and groups several opportunities for outdoor recreation. 


fisheries ponds

The many lakes, streams and rivers in Southern Illinois make an ideal laboratory for the SIU Center for Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences.

Hiking Trails


Touch of Nature is in the process of restoring its numerous foot trails for public use beginning with its Rocky Ledges Trail.  

Multi-use Trails

bike on trail

Touch of Nature wishes to create a new environmental and recreational experience for SIU, Southern Illinois, and the surrounding region with its multi-use trails projects.