Snakey Point is a part of The Patoka River Wildlife Refuge located in Patoka Township, near the Gibson County line. Established in 1994 as Indiana’s second national wildlife refuge, the refuge currently contains 6,149 acres. Its proposed boundary stretches for 20 miles . When completed, the refuge will cover 22,472 acres including 7,000 acres of rare bottomland forested wetlands.
The Pike County side of Snakey Point or the Big Pond as it used to be called is located on what is now CR 350 E. Or if you are from around here, you may know it as No. 7 Road, prior to that it was called the Old Wagon Road. If you are like us, we just call it the back road to Oakland City.
In the early 1850’s, Col. James W. Cockrum operated an Underground Railroad way station in his barn cellar in Oakland City for runaway slaves coming out of Kentucky. Col. William Cockrum, James’ son, wrote about their experiences: “If slave hunters showed up, the slaves were moved from harm and safely hidden in the thick brush and tall grass [cattails] in what was then known as the Big Pond, about two miles east of Oakland City.” Slaves were then moved on into Winslow to George Dean’s or to Petersburg .
Snakey Point Marsh was actively farmed from the early 1900’s up until the 1930’s. The Snakey Point name was first used in the 1850’s. Naturalist John T. Hanover was bitten while capturing a venomous snake presumed to be a water moccasin. This occurred near a high bank on the north end of the marsh near what is now known as the Indiana Southern Railroad. No venomous snakes are now known to occur in Snakey Point Marsh. Midland water snakes, rat snakes, black racers, or the threatened copperbelly water snake may be found around the marsh and all are non-venomous.
The Patoka River NWR is recognized as an important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society, and is home to 380 species of wildlife. The river valley is home to at least 20 plant species and 62 animal species considered as threatened, endangered or of special concern by the state of Indiana. Twenty-one species found here are on Audubon’s WatchList of birds in decline.
Several years back in the early 2000s, my brother called me and told me to bring some binoculars and meet him at Snakey Point. It was the first year a bald eagle nested there. The nest was directly across the marsh from the road. It looked like a small car stuck in a tree it was so huge. The kids and I stood there for a while on the side of the road watching. You could see their heads moving around in the nest. Finally one flew out and glided over the water to pick up a fish. It was one of the most memorable things I have ever seen. The kids will never forget it either. The eagles have more recently nested around the bend where you can not see their nests from the road.
The sloughs of the old river before the dredging have been favorite fishing holes of my brothers for years. Along the Line Road, the old iron bridge has been replaced with a nondescript bridge. Next to the bridge is the old slough that will take you back to the Old Bluff. The Old Bluff was at the end of the Aberdeen Road. Before the area was mined a second and third time, we would hike that road from Aberdeen to the River Bluff. We have found some arrowheads and a broken axe head there.
Beaver, otter, ducks, geese, herons , deer, muskrats, snakes and birds are just some of the critters that are common sights in the area. Snakey Point is open to the public for hunting, fishing, and bird watching. And it is just a nice drive to take in the evenings when the sun is setting. Turn left and drive back through the old Winslow Road and the old area where Ingleton was located, if it isn’t under water. The beaver have expanded the wetlands extensively in the area.
According to the Gibson and Pike Counties 2005 Fish Management Report, a total of 553 fish were found here, representing 19 species, was sampled that weighed an estimated 259.87 lbs. Bluegill ranked first by number followed by gizzard shad, redear sunfish, and largemouth bass. Bowfin ranked first by weight followed by gizzard shad, shortnose gar, largemouth bass, and common carp. Other nongame species sampled were 14 spotted gar, 12 warmouth, 12 orange spotted sunfish, 5 brown bullhead, 5 brook silverside, 3 yellow bullhead, 2 longear sunfish, 1 silver carp, 1 smallmouth buffalo, and 1 golden shiner.
It may be in the middle of nowhere and may be often overlooked by us that have grown up around it. I’ve heard it said that it has been featured on television fishing shows and that Kenny Chesney found the fishing good there. Sometimes the best things in life truly are in our own backyards.
I have a friend, Kaye Walker, whose family were the Davis and Drew families from the Muren area. She recently took some fantastic nature photos of Snakey Point that I would like to share with everyone by adding them to my post. Thanks for allowing us to view your photos Kaye!