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There's nothing quite like a day on a cool ozark stream. I'm not sure what I love most about it, if it's the great fishing, swimming, the feeling of being far away from civilization, or what, but it's the most peaceful area I can think of. I really love it there, and in August of 2005 my dad Keith, brother Tim, our friend Adam and me took a long weekend trip to the southeast ozarks. It was a really laid back trip, unlike the strictly herping trips we always take in the spring. We had plenty of time with not much of anything to do but swim, fish, and watch the water go by on a crystal clear ozark river. Oh yeah we managed to find some snakes and things too!

The trip started, as tradition dictates, at about 2:30 in the morning when we leave our northerly range in time to be at out destination by late morning when we would prefer to wake up. Eight hours later we are in the ozarks, eager to get out and see some wildlife. We poked around the area where we were staying first and turned up a few Northern Fence Lizards and various skinks, just little common things like that. I did see one interesting photo opportunity when a fence lizard seemed to be watching a praying mantis closely. Yum.

Northern Fence Lizard

We planned on checking out some great cypress swampland that evening, and then try to find some snakes crossing the roads at night. Adam and I set out into the oppressive heat and into the swamps. Before long, we came upon this Black Rat Snake crossing the road.

Black Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsoleta obsoleta)

Adam and I found ourselves in a paradise for reptiles and amphibians especially the amphibians. There were frogs hopping everywhere, and under some logs we saw newly transformed Smallmouth Salamanders. The frogs were mostly Blanchard's Cricket Frogs, and Southern Leopard Frogs.

Smallmouth Salamander (Ambystoma texanum)

Adam retained his title as "master of cricket frogs." Cricket frogs seem to be attracted to Adam like a magnet. They just hop to him instead of away. On a different trip he even was able to get several to sit on the end of his snake hook. Those things should be called "herp hooks," as they are not only for snakes anymore. Heres one of the many he caught.

Blanchard's Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans blanchardi)

Southern Leopard Frogs (Rana sphenocephala)

A little further into the swamp Adam found two different species of amphibian. First he rolled a log over to find a Marbled Salamander, and a few minutes later he found a Red Eft, the terrestrial stage of the central newt. I would go on to find a couple of Marbled Salamanders myself.

Marbled Salamanders (Ambystoma opacum)

Central Newt, Eft Stage (Notophthalmus viridescens louisianensis)

Flatwoods: Perfect salamander habitat

We also almost were eaten alive by the mosquitos, and by this spider whose web we just barely were able to avoid.

Golden Argiope Spider

It was getting late and Adam and I wanted to get onto the roads to see some snakes. There was a severe drought going on, and it didn't help out efforts, and the first night we only saw one copperhead on the road. Adam lifted the snake off the pavement with his snake hook and we continued on to see nothing in a couple of hours of driving. We went back to our cabin where we heard some Grey Treefrogs calling nearby. I found one the next morning and took some pictures.

Cope's Grey Treefrog (Hyla chrysocelis)

After that, the four of us headed out to get canoes and spend the day on a river. We rented the canoes, dropped the car of and got a lift from the canoe slinger upstream. On the way he regaled us with tales of snakes in the area, like the pilot black snake, the canebrake rattler, which always is found in pairs, the spreading adders, and the ground rattler. Of course he was refering to the Black Rat Snake, Timber Rattlesnake, Hognose Snake, and Pigmy Rattlesnake, respectively. I always like to hear locals tell stories like these, even when you know in the end the snakes were probably killed. He also mentioned the "hoop snake" which when seen will put its tail in its mouth, and roll after you like a wheel. When we told him we were actually in the area looking for snakes, he seemed interested, and offered some places to go look. We all wanted to see a Pigmy Rattlesnake more then anything, but the driver said he had not seen any for many years. After listening to his stories we were finally to our starting point. The river was a bit low, another sign of the drought. We tipped the driver, then dipped our paddles, and we were underway.

Some river scenery:

Tim caught the first Smallmouth

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