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Minnesota State Parks

Chester Woods County Park
Chester Woods is a haven for wildlife and wildlife watchers. The reservoir forms a many-fingered lake which beckons to be explored by canoe. Wood ducks and hooded mergansers feed on the lake; watch for them as you paddle. Listen for the gung-gung of green frogs calling from the water's edge. <br>...
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Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park
Description: Due to its position at the western edge of the blufflands, the Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park area contains a variety of wildlife habitats: streams and floodplains, mature oak ridge forests, brushy south-facing slopes, moist maple-basswood forests, meadows and a few pockets of white pine and balsam fir.

One of the park's key features is Historic Forestville, a Minnesota Historical Society-operated site. This pre-Civil War town site with its restored tallgrass prairie is a great place to watch red-tailed hawks and other raptors. You will find deer all year long, particularly in the morning and at sunset. Look for birds and squirrels around the town's Meighen Residence. The town's outbuildings are also an excellent place to see little brown myotis bats leaving their roosts to forage for insects at dusk during middle to late summer.

In 1988 the park acquired Mastery Cave, which is a winter home for about 2,000 bats. You can see them during early and late-season cave tours. A large raccoon population inhabits the park's many smaller caves and sinkholes.


Wildlife to Watch: Forestville's extensive closed-canopy forest, the largest expanse in Fillmore County, is great bird habitat. The park is home to more than 175 species of birds including red-shouldered hawks, cerulean warblers, indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers, green herons, coopers hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, kingfisher, ruby-crowned kinglets, wood ducks, cedar waxwings and American redstarts. Up to 25 different species of warblers and five species of vireos have been recorded here. If you camp at this site you might be awakened by barred owls.

Pileated woodpeckers are common and you can see them best during the winter. Bald eagles also visit this region's streams throughout the winter. In March, observe the woodcocks' courtship ritual in the meadows. Mature oak trees produce food for wild turkeys, whose gobbling is commonly heard in the spring.

Seven different streams flow through the park, attracting aquatic birds and animals including herons, snapping turtles, spring peepers, northern water snakes and beavers. You will certainly see an abundance of nongame fish in the Mystery Cave area. If you're an angler, you'll be excited to see brown trout as they spawn in the shallow riffles of park streams in late October.

Other animals you can look for include mink, red-bellied snakes, foxes, shrews, pocket gophers, woodchucks, muskcrats, opossums, flying squirrels, weasels, cottontails and red, gray and fox squirrels. During cold snaps, coyotes will use frozen streams as highways.

Special Tips:  Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park Birding Checklist

Campsites at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park now can be reserved through the centralized reservation service by calling 1-866-85PARKS (1-866-857-2757) or online at stayatmnparks.com.

Ownership: MN DNR 
Size: 3170 acres 
Closest Town: Preston

Facilities:
RestroomsParkingTent CampingFishingCross Country SkiingHikingPicnic tablesVisitor CenterHorse TrailsHandicap AccessibleFeeSmall BoatsTrailer CampingDrinking WaterCamp FireShowersBicycling

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:
SpringSummerFallWinter

Raccoon - photo by USFWS
Map
Please use Map Link below

Driving Directions:
This site is between Spring Valley and Preston. Entrance to the park is 4 miles south of State Highway 16 on Fillmore County Highway 5, then 2 miles east on Fillmore County 118.

Map Link

 
Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park : Wildlife Viewing Area