Big Night Detours

Amphibian Road Closures in Keene

A "Road Closed" sign and barricade at North Lincoln Street, Keene, NH. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

The North Lincoln Street amphibian road closures were the first of their kind in New Hampshire. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Every year, on the first warm, rainy nights of spring, thousands of amphibians migrate to vernal pools and other wetlands to breed. Many are killed when they must cross roads. Our Salamander Crossing Brigades have moved tens of thousands of amphibians to safety at dozens of road crossings throughout the Monadnock Region — making an indelible impact on the lives of those individual amphibians — but we also know we can’t carry every frog across every road. Our big-picture goal is to collect data that can be used to inform more permanent solutions, such as wildlife tunnels or migration-night road closures.

In 2018, the Harris Center began working with the City of Keene to close the North Lincoln Street amphibian crossing site to vehicle traffic on “Big Nights,” ensuring the safety of migrating amphibians as well as the many families who come out to witness the migration each spring. In 2022, those detours expanded to a second amphibian crossing site at Jordan Road.

Keene is the first — and, so far, only — community in New Hampshire to close roads for the protection of migrating amphibians, and their decision to do so was based in large part on data collected by our Salamander Brigade volunteers. This is the power of community science! Read on for more details about these groundbreaking amphibian conservation measures.


North Lincoln Street

What part of North Lincoln Street will be closed to traffic?

When the detours are in place, the road will be closed from George Street to the southwest corner of Robin Hood Park, just north of the junction with Beaver Street. (See a map.) The detours will be in effect from approx. 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. the next morning.

When will the closures occur?

The amphibian migration is a weather-dependent phenomenon, so we cannot provide specific dates in advance. Generally speaking, Big Nights occur on the first warm (above 40° F), rainy nights of spring, after the ground has thawed. In Keene, this can happen anytime from March through early May.

How can I find out if the road will be closed?

The decision to close the road will be made by mid-afternoon on any given day. We will notify folks of the closure via our salamander forecast and the Harris Center community science and City of Keene Public Works Department Facebook pages. You don’t need to be on Facebook in order to look at these links.

How can I access the site when the road is closed?

Critter counts and salamander spot pattern documentation continue even when the road is closed, for data continuity and so that we can keep track of how many amphibians benefited from the road closures. If you want to help count critters at North Lincoln Street and you live nearby, it’s best to walk. If you need to get there by car, park in the southeast section of Woodland Cemetery, near the North Lincoln Street gate. When North Lincoln Street is closed to traffic, you’ll need to access the cemetery via the Beaver Street entrance. All other cemetery entrances will be gated. Drive carefully through the cemetery after dark, as frogs may be hopping on through!

Is there anything else I need to know about visiting the crossing site?

As a reminder, amphibian migrations take place after dark, in wet weather only. If you are planning to visit North Lincoln Street to observe the migration, please dress for the weather and be sure to bring a flashlight for every member of your group, even when the road is closed to traffic. (There may be scores of small frogs on the road at any given time, and they’ll be nearly impossible to see — and avoid stepping on — if you don’t have a bright light with you. Cell phone flashlights are not sufficient.) In addition, before you head out, please double-check to make sure the road is closed to vehicles that night. On nights when the road is open to vehicles, we ask that only trained Salamander Crossing Brigade volunteers in proper safety attire come to the crossing.

Why go through all this trouble for a few frogs?

It’s not just a few frogs. In the span of fifteen years (2007-2021), our dedicated Salamander Crossing Brigade volunteers have provided safe passage for nearly 17,000 migrating amphibians at North Lincoln Street, and documented nearly 2,000 road-killed amphibians. These numbers are underestimates – likely significantly so – as our volunteers typically don’t stay out after midnight, but the migration can continue until just before dawn if conditions are right. In addition, studies have shown that even modest vehicle traffic can have a significant impact on local amphibian populations. Closing the crossing site to through-traffic on migration nights is an important step towards the protection of these sensitive species, which are a vital part of the Robin Hood Park ecosystem.

Will this really make a difference?

Yes, it will! Initial data from the first three seasons of amphibian road closures at North Lincoln Street indicate that the detours are reducing amphibian road mortality at this site, even when we can’t close the road for every migration night in a given season.


Jordan Road

What part of Jordan Road will be closed to traffic?

Although the amphibian crossing is concentrated along a 0.2-mile wide stretch in the vicinity of Robin Hood Park, Jordan Road does not have any cross-streets that could facilitate a partial detour around this section of road. As a result, when the detours are in place, the road will be closed to through-traffic from Peg Shop Road all the way to Old Concord Road. The detours will be in effect from approx. 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. the next morning.

Residents and their guests will still be permitted to drive to and from their homes. If you live on Jordan Road northwest of Robin Hood Park, you can avoid the crossing entirely simply by traveling to and from your home via Old Concord Road on rainy spring nights. If you live on Jordan Road in the vicinity of Robin Hood Park or must otherwise access your home via Peg Shop Road, please drive slowly and exercise extreme caution on rainy spring nights, as amphibians and volunteers will likely be in the roadway.

When will the closures occur?

The amphibian migration is a weather-dependent phenomenon, so we cannot provide specific dates in advance. Generally speaking, Big Nights occur on the first warm (above 40° F), rainy nights of spring, after the ground has thawed. In Keene, this can happen anytime from March through early May.

How can I find out if the road will be closed?

The decision to close the road will be made by mid-afternoon on any given day. We will notify folks of the closure via our salamander forecast and the Harris Center community science and City of Keene Public Works Department Facebook pages. You don’t need to be on Facebook in order to look at these links.

Will Jordan Road be closed whenever North Lincoln Street is closed?

While there will certainly be nights when both roads are closed, there may also be nights when North Lincoln Street is closed but Jordan Road remains open, especially in early spring. This is because the amphibian migration is weather-dependent, and Jordan Road sits at a higher elevation than North Lincoln Street. As a result, the snowpack lingers longer in the woods along Jordan Road, and nighttime temperatures may be a few degrees colder than at North Lincoln Street. On nights when conditions are right on the cusp of frog-friendliness, North Lincoln Street might be hopping with frogs, while Jordan Road is still too chilly or snowy for significant amphibian movement.

How can I help with amphibian crossings when the road is closed?

Parking is very limited along Jordan Road, and some local traffic will still be passing through, even when the barricades are up. As a result, although families and other community members are welcome to visit the North Lincoln Street crossing site when that road is closed for amphibians, we ask that only trained Salamander Crossing Brigade volunteers in proper safety attire come to the Jordan Road crossing.

Why Jordan Road?

Although fewer individual amphibians cross Jordan Road than North Lincoln Street, the Jordan Road crossing is notable for its concentration of Jefferson complex salamanders, which are a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in New Hampshire and which do not occur at North Lincoln.

Why go through all this trouble for a few salamanders?

It’s not just a few salamanders. In the span of fourteen years (2008-2021), our dedicated Salamander Crossing Brigade volunteers have provided safe passage for nearly 2,500 migrating amphibians at Jordan Road, and documented more than 350 road-killed amphibians. These numbers are underestimates – likely significantly so – as our volunteers typically don’t stay out after midnight, but the migration can continue until the pre-dawn hours if conditions are right. Studies have shown that even modest vehicle traffic can have a significant impact on local amphibian populations. Closing the crossing site to through-traffic on migration nights is an important step towards the protection of these sensitive species, which are a vital part of the Robin Hood Park ecosystem.

Will this really make a difference?

Yes, it will. Initial data from the first three seasons of amphibian road closures at North Lincoln Street indicate that the detours are reducing amphibian road mortality at that site, even when we can’t close the road for every migration night in a given season. It’s too soon to know for sure, but we expect to see similar results at Jordan Road.

Contact Us

For more information on the amphibian road closures or our Salamander Crossing Brigade program, please contact Brett Amy Thelen at (603) 525-3394 or by email.