Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Fragments of a cooler setting dating back to glaciation persist to the present along the Sheyenne River Valley, in some ways more closely resembling what we identify with northern Minnesota than with eastern North Dakota. The stately basswood and elm forests, impenetrable thickets, beaver ponds, aspen groves and snaking oxbow pools are in the valley right below stunted oaks and grass-covered dunes.
So far one state rare animal and 16 rare plants have been discovered in these habitats. In these numbers are represented the highest concentration of ferns in the state and a notable orchid display. This is in addition to its wealth of game and fish resources and luxuriant array of more common plants.
Each of the three tracts described here as the Mirror Pool area make a unique contribution to our understanding and enjoyment of the area. They are highlighted, tract by tract, from east to west, as follows:
Mirror Pool WMA 1: Largest of all the three tracts, this area encompasses the greatest habitat diversity and is perhaps the most frequently visited. Extensive sand dunes and old paths through basswood-elm forest offer miles of back country hiking. Deer and turkey hunters, anglers and scouts regularly come to the riverbottom clearing. A series of springs and seeps coming off in valley coulees provides valuable game habitat. These and other features are part of an exciting landscape to explore.
Mirror Pool WMA 2: Mirror Pool Swamp, as it's called, is choice stomping grounds for moose. But don't expect to peer across from the edge to see them. Most of the tract is dense alder and bog birch brush, more accurately referred to as "fen" or "peatland" rather than swamp. In fact, it is the largest peatland on the Sheyenne River.
Mirror Pool WMA 3: A great semicircle of an oxbow pool nestled in steep sand slopes is found here. It has been called the Leonard Swimming Hole, once a favorite swimming spot. A clearing in the center of the oxbow is still sought for camping, and a path ascending the sand slopes behind is used by both hikers and horseback riders to climb up for a scenic overlook of the valley.
Facilities: Camping is allowed in Mirror Pool WMA tracts except where posted. Durations over 10 days require permit. No facilities.
Ownership and Contact: Mirror Pool WMA is owned by ND Game and Fish Department. Information on use regulations is available by writing: ND Game and Fish Department, District Office, Lisbon, North Dakota 58054.
BONNIE HEIDEL is natural resources ecologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, ND.