|Wolsfeld Woods Scientific and Natural Area|
Wolsfeld Woods is the best remaining metro-area example of the Big Woods habitat that once covered south-central Minnesota. The large sugar maples—some more than 200 years old—that dominate this 221-acre parcel can give you the feeling of walking through a woodland cathedral. The closed canopy cr...
Lake Maria State Park
|Description: Lake Maria State Park was designed for hikers, backpackers and horseback riders looking for a wilderness experience. Three major landscapes are found within the park: wetland, remnant prairie and the oak-maple forest known as the "Big Woods". Here the northern hardwood forest meets the southern prairie. This mixed habitat of rolling woods, cattail marsh, sedge meadow, small lakes and tallgrass prairie attracts a variety of wildlife.|
Wildlife to Watch: The marshes, potholes, and lakes provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Approximately 205 different species of birds have been reported living in, or passing through on seasonal migrations. Visitors have seen bald eagles, Cooper's hawk, Franklin's gull, osprey, common egret, common loon, trumpeter swans, great blue heron, marsh hawk, and goldfinch. Owl species include the screech, great-horned, snowy, and short-eared. Mammals include shrews, bats, moles, rabbits, woodchucks, red and grey squirrels, pocket gophers, beaver, mice, fisher, muskrats, mink, striped skunk, red fox, and white-tailed deer.
You may spot eastern hognose, bull and garter snakes. The park is known for Blanding's turtles, a state threatened species. Your chance of spotting one of these unique yellow-throated individuals is increased if you look around the ponds where turtle-crossing signs are posted. Check out the turtle display near Lake Maria to speed your search for Blanding's, painted, snapping and spiny softshell turtles.
Watch for great blue herons, great egrets, double-crested cormorants, common loons, green herons, pied-billed grebes, American bitterns, soras, barred owls, ospreys and broad-winged and red-shouldered hawks. Look for forest songbirds, such as wood thrushes, scarlet tanagers, Baltimore orioles, ovenbirds, veeries, hermit thrushes and migrant warblers.
There's lots to do here—take the self-guided trail featuring a 300-foot wetland boardwalk and observation deck or hike up Anderson Hill for a panoramic view of the area or rent a canoe for an excursion on Maria Lake. Explore the 14 miles of hiking, 16 miles of cross-country ski trails and six miles of horseback trails to encounter more reclusive wildlife.
Be sure to stop at the nature center for seasonal programs such as maple syruping, bird hikes, workshops and candlelight skiing.
Lake Maria State Park Birding Checklist
Insects may be ferocious in July and August, so repellent and protective clothing are recommended.
A vehicle permit is required and if skiing, you'll need a ski pass.
Backpack and group camping sites and a few log cabins are available.
Campsites at Lake Maria State Park now can be reserved through the centralized
reservation service by calling 1-866-85PARKS (1-866-857-2757) or online at
Other Activities: Boat/canoe rental runs May-October.
Ownership: MN DNR
Size: 1590 acres
Closest Town: Monticello
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: