Road Closed: Snakes Crossing

Mar 15, 2017

Snake Road in the Shawnee National Forest
Credit flckr/Curtis Albert

There’s a 2 ½ mile stretch of road in southern Illinois that is off limits to vehicle traffic for the next couple of months.  It has nothing to do with potholes or repairs.  It’s all about snakes.

The thoroughfare has an official name.  But most just call it Snake Road.

“It’s built in a place… where two different habitats come together in a very sharp boundary,” said Chad Deaton, the District Recreation/Lands Program manager at the Shawnee National Forest.  He adds that the different habitats result in more diversity of plant and animal species.

Snakes, and other amphibians, are migrating from their winter home in limestone bluffs across the road to a nearby swamp.  They’ve been doing it for as long as anyone can remember.  But 40 years ago, a researcher pointed out the mortality as they tried to cross.  Since then, the road closes for a period in the spring and once again in the fall.

That doesn’t mean you can’t visit. Foot traffic is welcome.

“We get visitors from all of the world.  It’s well known.  It’s all over the internet,” Deaton said. “Depending on the weather, you can see a lot of different critters, snakes and amphibians.”

Deaton also said the snakes tend to leave people alone.  But he admits, some prefer to visit other locations so as not to run into a slithering resident.   

"If you're not a fan of snakes, it's probably not the place to be."

See the left side of this map for the location of the road.