Snow Snake Population Growing in Highland Recreation Area

snowy-snake Snow snakes were seen slithering in the snow inside Highland Recreation Area on Saturday, December 20th. Have you ever heard of a "snow snake"?  Do you think maybe it's a unique  reptile that survives Michigan winters slithering in the snow? Have you ever seen one? Maybe you should watch out for them when "Cow Tipping" or "Snipe Hunting" in the Winter. I think maybe their skin is white and camouflages them so that they are rarely seen when a wintry blanket covers the ground... Well those are some of the thoughts that I had when I was first presented with the concept of a Snow Snake. Mr. Dick Russell from the Clinton Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America (Waterford, Michigan), and Chairman of the Chief Pontiac Trail Committee, explained to me that the snow snake is actually the main object in a Native American Indian winter game, wherein a wooden "snake" is sent hurtling down a track in the snow for maximum distance.

American Indian hurtling a snow snake.

Being originally from sunny Los Angeles, California, all I had never heard of this before, but I liken it to the "craft and skill"-oriented activity of "Pinewood Derby cars" that I modeled and painted in Boy Scouts when I was young. The small wooden cars were raced down a sloped track to see which one was the fastest. But snow snakes can travel even faster and for great distances.

Colorful Snow Snakes awaiting a run in the snow.

In preparation for the HRA practice and the big event in January, the Boy Scouts held a Snow Snake Fabrication Day on December 13 at the Proud Lake Recreation Area, River Hawk Cafe dining hall. About 40 Snow Snake kits were sold to excited participants. Each kit contained supplies to carve a custom-made Snow Snake for the practice races which were held at Highland Recreation Area on Saturday, December 20th.

Snow Snakers line up to throw!

The Scouts held their practice on a cold but beautiful day in the park near the Edsel Ford barn. The actual Race Day for the Snow Snakes will be Saturday, January 31st, at the Proud Lake Recreation area on top of the hill across from the River Hawk Annex building.

Snow Snake tracks.

More information about the 2008/2009 Snow Snaking activities is available by reading or downloading the PDF file HERE.

Snow Snaker 1

Snow Snaker 2

Snow Snaker 3

Here's a great link to an old Sports Illustrated article about snow snaking... "professional" Indian snakes, seven feet long, that travel over a mile! SI Snow Snake Article. And type "snake snake" into the search engine HERE to see pictures of original snow snakes from our continents' native American Indian tribes.

Come out to the Highland Recreation Area this winter to enjoy the season. Annual motor vehicle permits are $24.00 and are on sale at the MDNR website HERE or at the park entrance for the 2009 season. They make great gifts! Day permits are $6.00.

Jay Fitzgerald


Friends of Highland Recreation Area