|Pillsbury State Forest|
Pillsbury State Forest is located in central Minnesota on the southern end of Cass County. Gull Lake, a well-known destination in the lakes country, forms much of the eastern boundary and a paved road runs north-south near the western edge. Between these two features are acres and acres of remo...
Lake Alexander Preserve/Alexander Woods SNA
|Description: The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Lake Alexander Preserve is centered in an 180,000-acre mosaic of mixed oak forest, wetlands, ponds and stands of red and white pine. The unfragmented nature of the site provides important habitat to songbirds dependent on the forest's interior. Old logging roads cross both the east and west units of the preserve and offer excellent hiking and birding trails for visitors.
Growing on the meadow and aquatic parts of the preserve are sedge, willow, white water lily, narrow-leaf cattail and great bullrush. Upland forest trees include oaks, aspen, sugar maple, red maple, ironwood, paper birch, red pine and white pine. In the cultivated field area, clumps of big bluestem and staghorn sumac can be found among pasture grasses. Woodland wildflowers abound on the preserve, as well as the bottle gentian, which blooms in the old pasture.
Natural resource managers at the Camp Ripley Military Reserve—54,000 acres bordering the Conservancy's property—have inventoried the camp's natural features and identified approximately 11,000 acres of virtually undisturbed habitat within its boundaries. Forest fragmentation is the biggest threat to biological diversity at Lake Alexander Preserve.
SNA: The contiguous forests and diverse habitat of Lake Alexander SNA occupy an outstanding knob and kettle topography, the legacy of the Rainy glacial lobe. Steep hills rise 100 feet above adjacent wetlands and 600 feet above the bedrock below. Kettles where till-covered glacial ice blocks slowly melted and collapsed are now filled with ponds, sedge meadows, marshes, swamps, and fens.
The mesic oak and aspen-birch forest canopies include red oak, paper birch, basswood, big-tooth aspen, and trembling aspen, punctuated by widely scattered white and red pines. In the understory, sugar and red maples await their day in the sun. One tiny marvel in this grand scale is bog bluegrass, a threatened Minnesota native species. This small, inconspicuous grass occurs in mossy, peaty locations at the margins of shallow pools near springheads. Skunk cabbage, delicate sedge, and marsh marigold also mark its location.
Wildlife to Watch: Many bird species inhabit the preserve, including the great blue heron, common loon, ruffed grouse, bald eagle and osprey. Don’t be totally surprised to spot tracks, hear howls or see a wolf in the area. In summer, black bears feed on berries. Keep your distance if you come across a bruin. Look for Blanding's turtles in the wetlands.
SNA: Bald eagles nest in white pines along the Lake Alexander shoreline, and red-shouldered hawks, throughout the knob and kettle topography.
Special Tips: The Upper Midwest's healthiest population of the declining red-shouldered hawks also can be found here, so be on the lookout for these raptors.
Other Activities: Also enticing are the fragrant water lilies that bloom in July in the marsh areas. The upland forest part of the preserve provides beautiful scenery as the leaves change color in the fall.
Ownership: Preserve-TNC / SNA-MNDNR
Size: 1991 acres, SNA: 1885 acres
Closest Town: Cushing
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: