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Minnesota State Parks

Talcot Lake WMA
The WMA includes Talcot Lake and its marshes, bottomlands along the west branch of the Des Moines River, and adjacent grassland and cropland. Historically, this unit has been important for migrating waterfowl.
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Heron Lake System
Description: The lake got its name from the vast colonies of nesting black-crowned night herons that its first visitors found here over a century ago. “Heron Lake” is actually a complex of prairie lakes and marshes, one of the largest of these in North America. This famous chain lies in the heart of the prairie pothole region. As recently as the early 1990s, a large colony of Franklin's gulls nested on North Heron Lake. With 10,000 gulls in the area, it had one of the largest concentrations in the world.

Fluctuating water levels due to several years of above normal rainfall along with tiling and drainage of adjacent lands destroyed much of the vegetation that the gulls and many other species needed for nesting. The Heron Lake chain was once a famous canvasback duck haven but, due to the loss of wild celery beds, few canvasbacks now use the lake. Although the area has changed greatly, it is still an important migratory path and nesting area oasis for birds. Cooperative efforts are underway to restore Heron Lake’s teeming bird life through habitat management and other measures. State Wildlife Management Areas and county parks around the lakes and wetlands provide not only habitat but also access for wildlife viewing and other outdoor recreation.

The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Lindgren-Traeger Bird Sanctuary lies on the northern edge of North Heron Lake. It serves as a visual reminder of the vast 8,000-acre wetland that once was one of North America’s most productive marshes. TNC’s R & J. Traeger TNC Preserve lies on the west side of South Heron Lake.

Wildlife to Watch: Thousands of waterfowl use the lake each spring and fall. During spring and fall migration a spectacular variety of shorebirds rest and feed on the shorelines and mud flats. The lakes and marshes attract American white pelicans, western grebes, Forster’s and black terns, great blue herons, black-crowned night herons, American and least bitterns, Franklin’s gulls, American avocets, and double-crested cormorants. Also, look for spotted sandpipers, trumpeter swans, ospreys, marsh wrens, and yellow-headed blackbirds.

At Lindgren-Traeger Sanctuary, birdwatchers can observe grassland birds, waterbirds, and shorebirds with an open view of the vast lake basin. Nashville, orange-crowned, magnolia and yellow-rumped warblers are among the many fall migrants observed along South Heron Lake. A public viewing platform is being planned for the R & J. Traeger Preserve to view eagles, pelicans, geese, woodpeckers, and songbirds and more.

Special Tips: North Heron Lake: Lindgren-Traeger Bird Sanctuary-TNC: The Conservancy asks visitors to observe wildlife from a distance. Walk-in access only. Hunting and launching boats are not allowed. Park vehicles near the main sign in the northeast corner on the road shoulder. Cattle occasionally are present at this site so visitors must exercise caution and close gates.

South Heron Lake (West side) Heron Lake WMA (multiple units) R & J. Traeger TNC Preserve: This site is managed by the DNR for waterfowl production. Walk-in access only from the southwest corner of the preserve near the main sign. Please avoid disturbing nesting waterfowl. Vehicles should be parked on road shoulder. No hunting or launching boats from this site. Sandy Point County Park (Southeast side) Community Point County Park

County parks on South Heron Lake provide shore viewing and a place to put a canoe in the lake.

Ownership: WMA, TNC and County 
Size: WMA 150 acres TNC R&J Traeger – 237 acres, Lindren-Traeger 91 acres 
Closest Town: Okabena and Lakefield

Facilities:
ParkingCross Country SkiingHikingSmall Boats

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:
SpringSummerFall

Black-crowned Night-heron - photo by USFWS
Map
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Driving Directions:
North Heron Lake: Lindgren-Traeger Bird Sanctuary: From the town of Heron Lake, drive northeast on State Highway 60 about 1.3. Turn south on County Road 24. Travel first south and then east for 2.5 miles. Turn south on the second gravel road and drive 1 mile south until you come to an intersection. The sanctuary is on the southwest corner of the intersection and has a large wood sign. Turn right and park along the road. Do not park near the farm on the north side of the sanctuary

South Heron Lake: To reach the public access and R & J. Traeger Preserve: From Lakefield, take Highway 20 for about 6 miles northwest. Turn on an unmarked gravel road for 1 mile and turn east for another ½ mile. To reach Community Point County Park, take highway 86 north of Lakefield for 1 mile. Turn west on County Road 71 for nearly 2 miles.

Map Link

 
Heron Lake System : Wildlife Viewing Area