|Beaver Creek Valley State Park|
Wooded valley walls rise 250 feet above spring-fed Beaver Creek, ushering it through this beautiful park. The view from the upland oak woods is dramatic. Watch for brown and brook trout in the cold, crystal-clear creek. Watercress, a vibrant green aquatic plant, grows in the creek all year long.<...
Dr. Johann C. Hvoslef Wildlife Management Area
|Description: Wide-open grasslands drop to a wooded valley, where the South Fork of the Root River hugs the curving limestone cliff. Tucked in the rolling farmland of southeast Minnesota, at the edge of the blufflands, lies this area designated for preserving nongame wildlife, primarily songbirds.
It was into this setting that Johan Hvoslef—a Norwegian immigrant fresh from medical school in Chicago—moved in 1876. He observed nature here for 44 years, filling 56 notebooks with accounts of his daily activities, world events, local weather, birds, and plants.
Amongst the notations: “August 3, 1896. I saw an Ectopistes migratorius (passenger pigeon) near Ole Bendikson's. This was the last wild pigeon I ever saw.”
After Hvoslef's death in 1920, his wife presented the diaries to what is now the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota. In 1932 museum director Thomas S. Roberts made extensive use of Hvoslef's observations in his seminal work, The Birds of Minnesota.
Landowners, Dr. Kinsey and Lilica Anderson, donated 205 acres that were documented in the diaries to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Nongame Wildlife Program in 1996. It’s been almost a century since Johan walked this precious piece of land. Some species have disappeared, many species remain and yet a few new species have been discovered at this site. Visitors to his namesake WMA will enjoy exploring and searching for his beloved birds in the wide-open fields and secluded nooks.
Wildlife to Watch: Follow the township road down into the filtered sunlight of the stream valley. Lively sounds surround you as black-capped chickadees flit anxiously above; red-bellied woodpeckers drum on old oaks, and in the background, Cedar Springs bubbles from the hillside. Look for belted kingfisher and elusive, seldom-seen Louisiana waterthrush near the water’s edge. Listen too for the beautiful melody of the eastern meadowlark in the grasslands and the soft cooing of mourning doves. Eastern bluebird, northern cardinal, tufted titmouse, house finch and woodpeckers, winter wrens and migrating warblers may also be spotted in this oasis in a sea of soybeans and field crops.
Birds of prey circle over the upland fields, scanning for their next meal—watch for a broad-winged hawk or the large turkey vultures. Speaking of turkeys, don’t be surprised if you come across wild ones in the woods or open areas.
Four species common in Hvoslef's time—red-headed woodpecker, wood thrush, black-billed cuckoo and bobolink—are now among the species in greatest conservation need recently identified by the DNR. Their decline is primarily due to habitat loss. In 2001 a DNR bird survey at this site recorded three game bird species introduced since the doctor's time: gray partridge, ring-necked pheasant, and wild turkey.
Footprints of white-tailed deer, raccoon and gray fox tell who recently passed by. Watch for brown trout, minnows and tadpoles in the clear river.
In spring and summer, wildflowers blanket the woodland floor and another exquisite flower, shooting star, still blooms in spots noted by Dr. Hvoslef. Examine the blossoms for interesting insects, and dazzling damsel and dragonflies. Butterflies, wildflowers of the air, flit over all the habitats. Search for red spotted purple, red admiral, pearl crescent, eastern tailed-blue and common wood nymph butterflies at flowers or on the wing.
Special Tips: Much of the terrain described in the diaries at the turn of the century has since disappeared, so this saved spot is indeed more critical than ever to preserve area habitat for birds and wildlife.
Other Activities: Awesome trout catch and release fishing with access easements. Nearby in Lanesboro is the Root River State Trail, which was established on an old railroad line running through town. Hiking or biking along the trail provides additional wildlife watching opportunities.
Ownership: MN DNR
Size: 233 acres
Closest Town: Amherst/Preston
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: