Narcisse Snake Dens is the perfect place to be if you love anything to do with snakes and reptiles. Located about 30 minutes west of Gimli, Manitoba, the Narcisse Snake Den is where you can view the world famous red-sided garter snakes. You’ll be treated to an abundant amount of snakes at one time, more than what you could imagine.
The Snake Den is a Wildlife Management Area in Manitoba. These aren’t just any regular snake pits – the Narcisse Snake Den is the most enormous concentration snake pits in the world for the red-sided garter snake. The area is full of caverns that formed from water-worn limestone bedrock.
The red-sided garter snakes have an interesting history in the area. Up until 1999, there were about 70,000 of these reptiles living around Narcisse. That winter, extreme weather hit the area, and the snakes couldn’t reach their winter dens in time. When this happened, concerns rose over the migratory path the snakes take to their winter dens that included Highway 17. When the snakes cross Highway 17, on average, roughly 10,000 snakes get crushed under moving vehicles on the highway. Although typically not an issue any other year, during the 1999 crisis, this became a huge concern. Hence, Manitoba Hydro and volunteers built snow fences to force the snakes into tunnels that went under the highway. The team also put up signs in the area to warn drivers to pay attention to crossing snakes. Their efforts helped save the red-sided garter snake population, and it has also helped lower the number of snakes killed during their migration season.
What to do at Narcisse Snake Den:
- Hike the 3.0 kilometre self-guiding interpretive trail to see tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes.
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- In spring you can see the annual mating ritual, where-in one female is surrounded by up to one hundred males to form a mating ball.
- One thing that really makes the snake dens exciting is that you are allowed to pick up and handle the snakes. Not many places like this allow you to touch and interact with the animals and reptiles you’re viewing. The Narcisse Snake Den though does allow it, as long as you’re gentle with them. It is better to do it in presence of a volunteer (onsite during Spring only), so that they can show the best way to handle a snake. There is the possibility that the snake could bite you if it gets defensive. Don’t worry though, these snakes are not poisonous, and the tiny teeth they have won’t break your skin. If you plan to pick up a snake, be prepared for the possibility of it pooping on you. This is another defensive mechanism of the snakes. As a warning, the smell of the snake poop can last for a long time.
- You can also enjoy native wildflowers and birds onsite.
When to visit Narcisse Snake Dens:
There is no fee and the site is free to visit.
The den is open to the public throughout the whole year. It is is an excellent destination to bring the family for the day. Although you can go at any time, there are specific times of the year, and times of day that are recommended for the best snake viewing.The snakes at the dens are at their most active during spring and fall. Snakes emerge after winter as early as the third week in April and run through the month of May.
Between April and May is their mating season. September is when the snakes migrate to their winter dens. Check here for seasonal announcements and best time to visit. For information on the seasonal status of the Narcisse Snakes Dens call 204-945-6784 or 1-800-214-6497.
The peak of the emergency and mating activity is generally around the second weekend in May to end of May, though this varies depending on the weather. Going on a sunny day will get you the best environment for seeing the snakes and snakes are active during late morning to afternoon.
How to get to Narcisse Snake Dens:
The Narcisse Snake Dens/Narcisse Wildlife Management Area is located in the Interlake region of Manitoba. The snake den area is situated immediately adjacent to Provincial Trunk Highway #17, approximately 1½ hours north of Winnipeg. Look for the Narcisse Snake Dens sign on Highway #17.
Parking: Free parking.
Amenities and accessibility at Narcisse Snake Den:
When you head to the snake dens, you’ll be entering an area that has little to no reception, so prepare not to have access to your phone. You’ll want to pack a bag of food and drinks to keep you hydrated and full as you tour the area. There are water pumps available, but the water is not drinkable.
Sunscreen is also highly recommended as there is not much shade along the trails. Don’t forget to pack your best walking shoes as you and the family will spend the afternoon walking the trails of the dens.
The trails of the dens are 3 km long but easy to walk and wheel chair accessible. For young children, the length of the trails can be a lot. However, there are no hills or rough terrains that you’ll have to walk.
You are allowed to bring your furry friends with you to hike the trails. If you bring a dog though, it must be leashed at all times, so they do not bother any of the visitors or the snakes. Unfortunately, the area does not allow bikes on the trails since there will likely be slow-moving snakes crossing the trails.
Although the area is quite secluded, there are small towns around the Narcisse Snake Dens. You’ll find general stores and gas stations in the surrounding communities of Teulon, Inwood, Narcisse, and Poplarfield. There are also restaurants in Teulon and Inwood, making them an excellent spot to stop along the way to the dens or back home.