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Northland Arboretum Important Bird Area (IBA)
The 600+acre site is comprised of the Northland Arboretum, the Paul Bunyan Jack Pine Savanna (owned by The Nature Conservancy) and the Fremling Tree Farm. Open dusk to dawn seven days a week to offer respite to residents and visitors. Sit in the gazebo, linger on the bridge, stroll along a path ...
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Pillsbury State Forest
Description: 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 remote woods, wetlands and waters providing homes for an extraordinary array of birds and wildlife. Another couple of roads access additional seldom-traveled trails in the heavy forested area of deciduous and evergreen trees.

Not too far away from Pillsbury are the Mississippi, Crow Wing and Gull rivers, significant water features within the larger landscape. Whether canoeing, camping or riding horseback, there are plenty of opportunities to do some serious wildlife watching in these rugged, rolling hills of this site.

Wildlife to Watch: Scan for sharp-shinned, broad-winged, rough-shouldered and red-tailed hawks, as well as northern harriers. Bald eagles perch and soar in the area, as do osprey. Although rare, to the south and west of Pillsbury where open fields prevail, you might spot a golden eagle too. Look for strutting wild turkeys, which have become fairly common.

Woodpeckers love this forest, so look and listen for common species such as the downy, hairy and pileated, a striking, crow-sized, master chiseler of wood. A red-bellied and possibly even a red-headed woodpecker might be seen. Alder flycatchers and waterfowl are found near the water; waxwings, pine warblers and red-breasted nuthatches frequent the forest too, as do chickadees, crows and creepers. Hooting barred owls break the nighttime silence. Check the IBA details for more species of interest found in Pillsbury and adjacent areas.

Winter wildlife watching is also an option. For the birds: about 35 species might be spotted, but it takes sharp eyes and good binoculars to find the more reclusive winter residents. The rough-legged hawk and northern goshawk are winter visitors. It’s also possible to discover a northern shrike or one of its impaling points. The cumulative number for the Audubon Pillager Christmas Bird Count (CBC), which conducted its debut survey in 2000, now stands just shy of 60 species for the count week.

Don’t be shocked if you see the unmistakable signs of a wolf or better yet, if you come across one of these magnificent creatures roaming through the woods or trotting down a trail. Look for beaver lodges and their residents, playful otters and smaller muskrats in and around the lakes. Although shy and secretive, fishers like dense forests and may be found in hollow trees and logs where they often den. White-tailed deer are common. During berry season, you might see a black bear having a snack. Keep your distance.

Special Tips: There are miles of forest roads and logging trails that present access for wildlife observation, but be mindful of logging equipment and large trucks on these narrow, often winding roadways. Be prepared with high-quality detailed maps and compass/GPS unit as it easy to get lost or “turned around”. A pair of osprey have long resided on a platform on CR 1 north of the Highway 210 junction. The winter Audubon CBC is conducted annually on New Year’s Day. Three more interesting aspects of this site include the Old Growth Forest and 1886 homestead sites and Little Devil’s Ravine Vista. Oh yes, an advantage of visiting Pillsbury in the fall: stunning autumnal colors prevail in this forested getaway to add to your pleasure.

Other Activities: The Camp Ripley-Pillsbury-Lake Alexander IBA supports the greatest known concentration of nesting red-shouldered hawks in the state. In addition, 228 species of birds have been documented at Camp Ripley including 28 species of warblers, as well as the most northerly site of the hooded warbler. Other species of concern found within this IBA include the bald eagle, trumpeter swan, yellow rail, and Louisiana waterthrush.

This IBA encompasses an area of 155,432 acres. Public land ownership: Camp Ripley Military Reservation, Crow Wing and Cass County lands, Pillsbury State Forest, Crow Wing State Park, the eastern portion of Meadowbrook Wildlife Management Area, the Little Nokasippi River State Wildlife Management Area and Lake Alexander Woods Scientific & Natural Area. The Nature Conservancy and Minnesota Power & Light also own land within the boundaries of this IBA.

Ownership: MN DNR 
Size: 14,756 acres 
Closest Town: Pillager/Brainerd

RestroomsParkingTent CampingFishingCross Country SkiingHikingPicnic tablesBoat LaunchHorse TrailsHandicap AccessibleLarge BoatsSmall BoatsTrailer CampingDrinking WaterSwimmingCamp FireBicyclingRV Pullout

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:

Rough-legged Hawk - Photo by Carrol Henderson
Please use Map Link below

Driving Directions:
Pillsbury SF is slightly northeast of the small town of Pillager and about 13 miles northwest of Brainerd.

Map Link

Pillsbury State Forest : Wildlife Viewing Area