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 their summer habitats to their winter hibernation areas.
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 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.
Though the road is closed to vehicles, it is open to people traveling on foot. Anyone planning to visit is asked to 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.
Here are photos The Southern's photo editor, Byron Hetzler, took during a spring migration a couple of years ago. Visitors can expect to see similar views when the road is closed for fall migration. More information about Snake Road follows below.
“Snakes and amphibians migrate to the bluffs where they hibernate for the winter,” Paul Widowski, a wildlife biologist with Shawnee National Forest, said when the road closed in the spring. “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 Oct. 30.
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 and worm snake.
Snake Road is located south and west of Murphysboro and east of Route 3.
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.