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Shawnee National Forest “Snake Road” closing for fall migration

Shawnee National Forest’s Snake Road is closing Sept. 1 so that snakes and amphibians – some of them considered threatened and endangered in Illinois and the United States – can migrate from LaRue Swamp to nearby limestone bluffs. Closing the 2.5-mile-long road, also known as LaRue Road and Forest Service Road No. 345, helps ensure safe crossing for these rare species.

The gradual, two-month migration event attracts people from across the country eager to witness the rich diversity of reptile and amphibian species along this single stretch of road. About 66 percent of the amphibians and 59 percent of the reptiles known to occur in Illinois are found here.

“Snakes and amphibians migrate to the bluffs where they hibernate for the winter,” said Chad Deaton, a wildlife biologist with Shawnee National Forest. “Cottonmouths are the most common snake that can be seen during this migration.”

Snake Road will be closed between mile post 3.0 and mile post 5.8. It will remain closed until October 30. Though the road is closed to vehicles, it is open to people traveling on foot.

Although foot traffic is welcome please be aware that LaRue-Pine Hills/Otter Pond is a federally designated Research Natural Area and unauthorized collecting and handling of any of these species is prohibited under federal and state law.

Common names of reptiles and amphibians occurring at this site:

American toad

bird-voiced tree frog

black racer

black rat snake

broadhead skink

brown snake

bullfrog, green frog

cave salamander

central newt

common kingsnake

common snapping turtle

copperhead

cottonmouth

cricket frog

diamondback water snake

eastern box turtle

eastern garter snake

eastern hognose snake

fence lizard

five-lined skink

flathead snake

Fowler’s toad

gray tree frog

green tree frog

ground skink

lesser siren

long tail salamander

marbled salamander

midland water snake

Mississippi green water snake

mud snake

musk turtle

painted turtle

red milksnake

red-bellied snake

red-eared slider

ringneck snake

rough green snake

slimy salamander

smooth earth snake

southern leopard frog

Spotted salamander

spring peeper

timber rattlesnake

upland chorus frog

western ribbon snake

wood frog

worm snake

To reach Snake Road from Jonesboro: Take Highway 146 west 8 miles to Highway 3; then north 8 miles on Highway 3 to Muddy Levee Road. Then east 3 miles to LaRue Rd., at the ‘T’ turn right into Winters Pond parking lot. They can also reach this from the south entrance off of LaRue Rd (some people like to walk from here north and turn around part way)

To reach Snake Road from Murphysboro: Take Highway 149 west 7 miles to Highway 3; then south 14 miles on Highway 3 to Muddy Levee Road. Then east 3 miles to LaRue Rd., at the ‘T’ turn right into Winters Pond parking lot.

For more information about the snake migration and/or the LaRue-Pine Hills Ecological Area, please contact the Shawnee National Forest office in Jonesboro, Illinois at (618) 833-8576.