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Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

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Bloomington, Minnesota

A National Refuge. A Twin Cities Resource.

Few Twin Cities residents realize, as they drive across one of the many bridges spanning the Minnesota River Valley, the enormity of what lies below.

Not more than 10 miles from downtown Minneapolis lies a wilderness experience as primitive and natural as any state or national park. The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is one of only a few urban wildlife refuges in the nation, a place where wild coyotes, bald eagles, badgers and beavers live next door to 2.2 million people.

Long before the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul existed, the Minnesota River Valley provided a rich, fertile habitat for hundreds of species of wild plants and animals. Today, thanks to strong citizen support, an act of Congress in 1976, and careful management by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Valley provides humans with an increasingly rare opportunity to encounter true wildlands - a rapidly shrinking resource in this country.

Within this 34-mile corridor of marsh, grassland and forest, stretching from Bloomington to Jordan, you'll find miles of hiking, biking, horseback-riding and skiing trails for you and your family to enjoy.

We encourage you to visit, explore, observe and learn more about this valuable resource. Because the more you become a part of the Refuge, the more it will become a part of you.

First Stop: The Visitor Center

The best way to get your bearings and discover all there is to do in the Refuge is to head straight for the Visitor Center. From here, we can show you how to reach some of the more remote areas of the Refuge and help you make the most of each visit.

But plan on spending some time in the Visitor Center itself. This architecturally-acclaimed building overlooking the Valley features four descending levels of interactive exhibits, a two-story fireplace, a 125 seat auditorium, a resource library and bookstore.

A stroll through the exhibit area helps us realize that we are part of a larger natural community and that our actions affect this community in many ways. It presents a wonderful educational opportunity for individuals and groups of any size.

The interactive exhibits raise a series of questions to acquaint you with the various ecosystems within the Refuge and the issues involved in its management. What's so great about a marsh? Does airplane noise bother wildlife? Where does the water come from and what happens if there's a flood? It all adds up to one big question, "How should we live together?"

The Center also serves as a gathering place for many of our seasonal programs and activities. During the winter months, join us for storytelling around a blazing fire in the fieldstone hearth. Summer activities include nature movies and educational trail hikes. Step outside and you'll find a scenic overlook of the Valley and a half-mile self-guided birdwatching trail.

Once you've explored the Visitor Center you'll be ready to explore the Refuge. This may require more than one visit, since most of the accessible areas are a short drive away from the Center. But before you leave, be sure to pick up a map of the Refuge and a calendar of events and activities.

The Visitor Center

Information, Refuge maps, calendar of events and activities are available here. Interactive exhibits, hearthroom and gift shop are open year-round. Educational rooms are available for groups. Outside, visit the birdwatching trail and scenic overlook. Accessible to the physically challenged.

Bass Ponds Environmental Study Area

Originally used to breed fish for stocking Minnesota lakes, this system of interconnected man-made ponds is now open to schools and visitors interested in studying nature and water management firsthand. Half-mile self-guided trail.

Long Meadow Lake

These 2,200 acres of marshes, fields, hardwood forested bluffs and bottomlands are accessible by five miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails.

Black Dog Preserve

Observe migrating waterfowl and native prairie from an observation area and a two mile hiking trail.

Louisville Swamp

A 2,400 acre mix of marsh, bottomland hardwoods and oak savannah, it features 13 miles of hiking, cross-country skiing, horseback-riding, and biking trails.


Exceptional wetlands with hiking and cross-country skiing trails. Some areas are closed seasonally to protect a Great Blue Heron nesting colony.

The following Refuge areas have no public facilities as yet:

Bloomington Ferry

Site of one of the first Minnesota River crossings, this 380-acre unit contains lush floodplain forests and wetlands between the river and the nearby bluffs.


Upgrala's 2,400 acres of lake, marsh, fields and forested riverbanks lie below the Eden Prairie bluffs.

Chaska Lake

Nestled in the floodplain between the river towns of Chaska and Carver, this 580-acre unit consists of a marsh-edged lake surrounded by farmland and floodplain forest.

For additional information please contact:
                 Refuge Manager
                 Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
                 3815 East 80th Street
                 Bloomington, Minnesota 55425-1600
                 Telephone: 612/335-2323 Visitor Center
                            612/335-2299 Recorded Information

This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  No date.  Minnesota Valley National Wildlife 
     Refuge, Twin Cities wildlife at its best.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  
This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  No date.  Minnesota Valley National Wildlife 
     Refuge, Twin Cities wildlife at its best.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  
     Unpaginated.  Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.  
     (Version 22MAY98).

Return to Bird Checklist of Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

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