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Minnesota State Parks

Mille Lacs WMA
The 39,000-acre area supports biodiversity because of its "patchwork distribution" of marshes, bogs, streams, forests and fields. It's about 60 percent forested with aspen, oak, maple, basswood and ash. Food plots for wildlife are planted through agreements with local farmers.<br><br> The WMA wa...
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Wild River State Park
Description: Turn the clock back a few hundred years and imagine yourself standing in the St. Croix River Valley amid a stretch of 100 to 200-foot white pine trees. If you're successful, you'll have a mental picture of what parts of the riverway looked like then. If you are having a little trouble coming up with a clear picture, a unique outdoor exhibit set in a 20-acre pine plantation will give you a feel for the immensity of the vanished pines. At Wild River, oak forests and oak savanna were important features of the original landscape of the southern part of the park, while pines were prominent in the northern part.

Wild River State Park also preserves a long cultural heritage. The St. Croix Valley was first occupied by nomadic people 6000 years ago and in relatively more recent times, Dakota, Ojibwe, Sauk and Meskwaki Indians all lived in the area. As time passed, two fur trading posts, built within present-day park boundaries, flourished. Traces of the Point Douglas to Superior Military Road, constructed in the 1850s, are still visible in the park.

Lumberjacks and settlers from Sweden and New England came in the mid 1800s to log, farm and plat two town sites that never developed. Nevers Dam, said by some to have been the largest timber-crib dam ever built, was constructed in 1890 to regulate the flow of huge white pine logs en route to Stillwater sawmills. The dam was demolished in 1955, but the old Nevers Dam site is still an attraction and a favorite with anglers.

Wildlife to Watch: Today, this narrow, diverse sanctuary hugging the wild and scenic St. Croix remains a wonderful place for wildlife watching.

Wetlands and the river offer both food and protection for marsh birds and waterfowl, as well as a haven for muskrats, beavers and river otters. Look closely to discover signs or tracks in the snow or soft earth left by these animals, plus those of raccoons, skunks, badgers, red and gray foxes, coyotes, black bears or white-tailed deer. Watch for deer in open prairie or meadow settings during early morning and evening hours. Mammals more typical of northern Minnesota area also present by uncommon: porcupines, fishers, pine martens, and occasional sightings of young timber wolves seeking suitable new home territories.

Scout for bald eagles and turkey vultures riding the thermals and red-shouldered and broad-winged hawks and northern harriers winging over forests and fields.

Zoom in on barred owls, great-horned owls, great blue herons and songbirds such as the indigo buntings, scarlet tanager, eastern bluebirds, golden-winged and blue-winged warblers, Louisiana waterthrushes, ovenbirds and common yellowthroats. Restored prairie and savanna offer opportunities to observe field, clay-colored, and grasshopper sparrow and less common grassland birds. In spring and autumn count on seeing migratory birds in large numbers.

In winter watch for trumpeter swans that frequent the open water near the Deer Creek outlet and south of the Nevers Dam site. Cross-country ski trails run close to these spots and a packed walking trail leads from the picnic area to the dam site. Use binoculars to get a glimpse of these graceful white birds.

Special Tips:  Wild River State Park Birding Checklist

CAUTION: High water levels and swift river currents may develop overnight. Be extremely careful when in and around the river and mindful of slippery rocks and soil. Swimming is not permitted within the park.

Other Activities: Campsites at Wild River 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.

Inquire about the year-round naturalist programs and seasonal events such as maple syrup demonstrations, birding walks, hands-on prairie learning opportunities, snake programs, geocaching, fall color programs, snowshoeing, animal tracking and moonlight skiing. The visitor center overlooks the valley and features a bird feeding area, biodiversity display and a landscaping for wildlife demonstration garden. There are also historical and cultural exhibits at the visitor center and at several locations along park trails.

Ownership: MN DNR 
Size: 6803 acres 
Closest Town: Center City

RestroomsParkingTent CampingFishingCross Country SkiingHikingPicnic tablesVisitor CenterHandicap AccessibleFeeTrailer CampingDrinking WaterCamp Fire

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:

River Otters - photo by USFWS
Please use Map Link below

Driving Directions:
From I-35, take State Highway 95 to County Road 12. Drive 3 miles on County Road 12 to park entrance.

Map Link

Wild River State Park : Wildlife Viewing Area