Big Muddy River Levee Road

Total Miles


115.01 ft


0.75 Hours

Technical Rating



Best Time

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Trail Overview

The Big Muddy River Levee Road is a 14-mile-long gravel road following the ridge top of the Levee, along the lower southern section of the Big Muddy River in Jackson County Illinois. The road traverses through the landscape of the northwest section of the Mississippi Bluffs sector of Shawnee National Forest. It features a quick-to-travel, raised-up view of the natural area on either side of the levee, and has a high likelihood of seeing wildlife (Snakes, Coyotes, Deer, Gophers, Turkey and Fish) in the habitat of the area, and features views of the rock bluffs to the east in the distance. There are many turn-offs to side roads leading to fishing holes, campsites, and forestry routes.


The road is well maintained gravel and is generally flat, great for a backroad cruise to get away from the paved roads. With minimal complications, you will likely experience deep pot holes, but could also feature washboarding, and mounding of the gravel in between maintenance cycles.


The recent history of the Levee is in 2013 the Levee experienced several pipe collapses and drain failures, but as of 2021 had these sections repaired. As for the general history of the area, Snake Road takes the cake, The yearly migration involves the hibernation of the animals during the winter months in the bluffs. These animals then move to their feeding grounds in the swamp during the summer months. Herpetologists have reported that the main factor in triggering the seasonal migration is ground temperature. This road was open to traffic year-round prior to 1972. This resulted in the death of many animals that were crossing the road. Consequently, the Forest Service decided to close a 2.5-mile segment of the road during the seasonal migration to protect the reptiles and amphibians. The road is now being closed for two months in the spring and fall to further ensure the protection of early or late migrating species. The number of animals protected by this action is unknown, however, far fewer reptiles and amphibians are found dead on the road. LaRue-Pine Hills/Otter Pond Research Natural Area (RNA) became our nation's 250th RNA in 1991. RNA's are permanently protected to maintain biological diversity and to provide places for research and monitoring of undisturbed natural areas. Info sourced from

Technical Rating


Access Description

From the South at Wolf Lake, IL at Illinois Route 3 and Main Street, at 37.50431, -89.43742, head north on Route 3 for 4.6 miles, make a turn onto the gravel road on your right, at 37.56397, -89.47294, you are now on the road.From the North, at the Illinois Route 3, at 37.72381, -89.46368, head northeast on Town Creek Road for 2.1 miles through Sand Ridge, IL, then turn right onto Big Muddy River Levee Road at 37.74106, -89.43541, you are now on the road.The center section of the road is sometimes closed due to ecological preservation in terms of a snake migration crossing, this being between Johns Spur (Oakwood Bottoms) FSR 786 and Rattlesnake Road, if so, using said roads and Illinois Route 3 you can bypass it.