2019 Dates Announced! October 10-13, 2019

OVERVIEW: We travel to the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois, near the Mississippi River. During the program, we observe dozens of reptiles and amphibians and talk with graduate students, reptile experts, and scientists from all all over the country. Everyone is there to observe a one-of-a-kind event: the migration of thousands of snakes, salamanders, and frogs from their summer habitat in the swamps to the rocky bluffs on the other side of the road.

LENGTH: 4 Days

ELIGIBILITY: Grades 7-12


INCLUDED: Includes camping gear, accommodations, meals, transportation, park fees, conservation program fees, instructional fees, guides, vehicles, location staff and all other trip activities.

ADDITIONAL COSTS: Personal items, extra snacks at rest areas on the road.

LOCATIONS: Larue-Pine Hills, Shawnee National Forest, Illinois

TOPICS: Herpetology, biomes (forest, swamp and bluff), ecosystems, predator/prey, migration, carrying capacity, r and K-selected species, human/wildlife interaction, wildlife identification, hiking safety, camping, social-emotional development.


Travel to Campground
Overnight: Tents, LaRue Pine Hills Campground

Depart in the early morning for the long drive to southern Illinois. Quick lunch stop on the road. Get to know each other on the trip. Dinner in camp. 

Day 02: FRIDAY
Explore Snake Road & Surrounding Area
Overnight: Tents, LaRue Pine Hills Campground

Up for breakfast and introductory information. Drive to Snake Road entrance and begin our 5.4 mile round trip walk to the end and back. It is easy walking on a gravel road, at a slow pace as we search for creatures. Photos will be taken, and we will take advantage of "teachable moments" as they arise. Lunch back at camp, and afternoon activities TBD. Dinner back at camp. 

Explore Snake Road & Surrounding Area
Overnight: Tents, LaRue Pine Hills Campground

Up early to eat breakfast around the campfire and then hit the road. Drive to Snake Road entrance and begin our 5.4 mile round trip walk to the end and back. This time we take the time to explore more “off road” into the woods and rocky areas. Lunch in the field. Dinner back at camp followed by camp fire and s'mores. 

Day 04 : SUNDAY
Return Home
Overnight: Home! 

Up early to eat breakfast around the campfire, break down camp, and hit the road. Lunch & Dinner will be quick stops on the road.

Why This Program is Awesome:

Snake Road is a world-class wildlife hotspot. Read this, from National Geographic:

"It’s one of the most unique places in the world, where snakes and other reptiles and amphibians migrate across a country road so famous that we invented a new name for it: the “Snake Road.”  In the Shawnee National Forest, Snake Road is closed to vehicles every spring and fall to protect thousands of reptiles and amphibians that migrate between summer and winter habitats.

On one side of the Snake Road are the sheer Pine Hills Bluffs and on the other side are the vast LaRue Swamps.  Every spring reptiles and amphibians come out of hibernation in the cliffs and bluffs and must move across the Snake Road to the swamp to feed and fatten up during the summer months.  Then in the fall they return to the bluff areas for winter hibernation.

This area is teeming with wildlife, including at least 35 species of snakes. Some unusual animals and birds that make LaRue-Pine Hills their home include the bobcat, bald eagle, spring cavefish, eastern woodrat, golden mouse, Mississippi kite and indigo bunting.  Because of the exceptional amount of diversity of plant and animal life recorded in the Pine Hills, it was designated a national Research Natural Area (RNA) in 1991. RNA’s are permanently protected to maintain biological diversity and to provide places for research and monitoring of undisturbed natural areas."

Here is the article and photos from National Geographic.


American Toad Anaxyrus americanus

Black Racer Coluber constrictor
Blanchard's Cricket Frog
 Acris crepitans blanchardi
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Halyomorpha halys
Bullfrog Lithobates catesbeianus

Central Newt Notophthalmus viridescens
Chorus Frog Pseudacris triseriata
Corn Snake Elaphe guttata
Cottonmouth Agkistrodon piscivorus

DeKay’s Brownsnake Storeria dekayi

Eastern Pondhawk Erythemis simplicicollis
European Earwig Forficula auricularia

Fence Lizard Sceloporus undulatus
Five-lined Skink Plestiodon fasciatus
Flat-Backed Millipede Eurymerodesmus spp.
Fork-Tailed Bush Katydid Scudderia furcata
Fowler’s Toad Anaxyrus fowleri

Green Frog Rana clamitans
Green Treefrog Hyla cinerea
Grey Treefrog Hyla versicolor
Ground Skink Scincella lateralis

Leopard frog Rana pipiens

Map Turtle Graptemys geographica
Midland Brown Snake Storeria dekayi wrightorum
Midland Water Snake Nerodia sipedon pleuralis

North American Millipede Narceus americanus

Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta
Plains Gartersnake Thamnophis radix

Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta
Red Paper Wasp Polistes spp.
Redbelly Snake Storeria occipitomaculata
Ringneck Snake Diadophis punctatus
Rough Green Snake Opheodrys aestivus

Spotted Cave Salamander Eurycea lucifuga
Spring Peeper Pseudacris crucifer

Western Ribbonsnake Thamnophis proximus

Yellow-bellied Watersnake Nerodia erythrogaster

Zigzag Salamander Plethodon dorsalis