Wildlife Viewing Areas
 Search the U.S.
Find an AnimalFind a Viewing AreaPlan a TripAboutContact


Purchase the Minnesota wildlife viewing guide
Explore Minnesota

Minnesota DNR

Minnesota State Parks

Carlos Avery WMA
The Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area encompasses more than 23,000 acres, representing the largest public land tract in the seven-county metro area. The land, once owned by the Crex Carpet Company, was managed for the wiregrass used to make rugs. In 1933, the land became tax-forfeited and was...
more info

Vadnais/Snail Lakes Regional Park
Description: When you visit this site, north of St. Paul, there is a series of lakes and wetlands where you have an excellent chance of seeing birds of the woods and wetlands. Vadnais and Sucker Lakes are deep lakes and are two of the last lakes to freeze in the winter. The wetlands are composed of extensive tamarac and shrub swamps with a large fen in the northwest quadrant. The forest habitat is mainly mature pine plantations with some areas of oak woods.

Upland forests and conifer plantings within the park give this area a "northwoods" feeling close to the heart of the metropolitan area. Since this lake provides the water supply for the city of St. Paul, there is no development along the shore and no boat use. The solitude on the lake has contributed to the quality of the wildlife habitat.

Wildlife to Watch: Ramsey County is normally not seen as a destination for birdwatchers. However, more than 240 species are regularly seen in the county over the course of a year, with just over 100 nesting species. The lowest diversity of birds is found in the winter when there are only about 35 species of resident birds.

This park is one of the best places to see common loons right in the heart of the Twin Cities and sometimes loons nest on West Vadnais Lake. The large Grass Lake wetland offers nesting swans and ospreys. A variety of marsh birds use the fen. There is good viewing of all local heron species, including black-crowned night herons. Flocks of waterfowl visit these lakes during migration, so look for canvasbacks and hooded mergansers among the mallards. East Vadnais Lake is one of the better fall migratory waterfowl layovers.

A mixture of dirt and paved pathways wind through the woods, where you might come across stunning red-shouldered hawks that may be nesting. Look too for abundant woodland passerines such as pine warblers and red-breasted nuthatches. Listen to the calls of black-capped chickadees and red-eyed vireos that punctuate the air.

Watch for white-tailed deer, red fox, striped skunks and raccoons. You might even spot an opossum, a species that has expanded its range to include the Twin Cities. Turtles have ample opportunity to bask on vegetative mats and semi-submerged snags. A parade of frog choruses fill late spring and summer evenings.

Special Tips: Vadnais Lake Road is closed in winter. Facilities are available at Sucker Lake. You may fish from shore in designated areas.

Other Activities: Located in north-central Ramsey County is a natural area of nearly 2000 acres in an urban landscape supporting 66 bird species. It consists of two parts: the Ramsey County Open Space known as Rice Creek North and the Arden Hills Army Training Site (AHATS).

Access to AHATS is limited to certain times and events. This IBA has important habitat for waterfowl, raptors and passerines all within an urban area, offers a unique opportunity for birders and others to view wildlife in the Twin Cities. Trumpeter swans with their young have been observed repeatedly and a small number of Forster’s terns and red-shouldered hawks have been seen.

Ownership: Ramsey County 
Size: 1020 acres 
Closest Town: Vadnais Heights

RestroomsParkingFishingCross Country SkiingHikingPicnic tablesHandicap AccessibleSmall BoatsDrinking WaterSwimmingBicyclingAuto TourRV Pullout

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:

Black-crowned Night-heron - Photo by Carrol Henderson
Please use Map Link below

Driving Directions:
This site is located in the city of Vadnais Heights north of St. Paul. From I-694, exit north on County Road 49/Rice Street. Immediately turn right onto the north frontage road (Vadnais Boulevard), follow it to Waterworks Road and turn left. This road goes between East and West Vadnais Lakes.

Sucker Lake access is located at 4600 Rice St. Grass Lake parking is off of Gramsie Rd at Mackubin Rd.

To reach Snail Lake Regional Park from I-694, exit north on Victoria Street and continue to Snail Lake Blvd. Turn right and watch for the parking area on the left.

Map Link

Vadnais/Snail Lakes Regional Park : Wildlife Viewing Area