Shawnee National Forest’s Snake Road is closing March 15 so that snakes and amphibians – some of them considered threatened and endangered in Illinois and the United States – can migrate from limestone bluffs to nearby LaRue Swamp. 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 from the bluffs to the wetlands for the spring and summer,” said Paul Widowski, 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 May 15. 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:
bird-voiced tree frog
black rat snake
bullfrog, green frog
common snapping turtle
diamondback water snake
eastern box turtle
eastern garter snake
eastern hognose snake
gray tree frog
green tree frog
long tail salamander
midland water snake
Mississippi green water snake
rough green snake
smooth earth snake
southern leopard frog
upland chorus frog
western ribbon 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.