|Chamberlain Woods SNA|
Situated on the south side of town, Chamberlain Woods protects a mosaic of vegetation types fronting the Minnesota River.
This 302-acre Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) is a prime example of the river floodplain and adjacent hillsides. Chamberlain Woods is bounded on the west and nor...
Kasota Prairie Area SNA
|Description: Tiny remnants remain of a prairie that, prior to 1850, covered one third of Minnesota. In this region, near the bluffs of the Minnesota River Valley, it was called Kasota Prairie. Located on an extensive rock terrace 70 feet above the Minnesota River Valley, the Kasota Prairie is named for its view, Kasota meaning "cleared-off place."
When the Glacial River Warren originally carved the Minnesota River valley, the flooded river covered this terrace. Ancient limestone outcroppings, exposed by the powerful waters of the Glacial River Warren, are still visible in the vicinity.
In 1984, the Kasota Prairie Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) was set aside as a preserved prairie ecosystem. This 42-acre SNA contains virgin prairie and areas that were changed by grazing have returned to their natural state through careful management. It, along with a few other parcels, are some of the largest remaining mesic/tallgrass prairies in this region.
Today, prairie, wet meadow, oak woodland and lowland hardwood plant communities thrive in the thin soils, only a foot deep. The ecosystem is managed by periodic burning. Shrubby patches of wild plum, wolfberry and narrow-leaved meadowsweet provide nesting and perching sites for open-country birds.
Prairie plants are in almost continuous bloom spring through fall. The palette of wildflower color ranges from the first pasque flowers and prairie violets in early spring, on to summer's yellow stargrass, pale-spike lobelia and sunflowers, deepening with the last gentians in October.
Wildlife to Watch: The scattered trees and shrubs of this site and the surrounding game refuge provide habitat for the loggerhead shrike, a Minnesota Threatened Species. These birds use perches while hunting for grassland insects, small birds and mammals. They have a peculiar practice of impaling their prey on branches or on barbed wire fences, doing this so they can tear it apart or store it for later consumption. Shrikes have become much less common due to habitat destruction.
Grassland bird species predominate on the SNA, but with the close proximity to the Minnesota River, a few unusual species such as great blue heron, great egret, bald eagle and Forster’s tern fly over in their comings and goings. Seasonal ponds border the SNA on the northwest corner and attract some migrating waterfowl in the early spring. Look for eastern and western meadowlarks, as well as ring-necked pheasants, American kestrels, bobolinks, field and vesper sparrows, horned larks and upland sandpipers too.
It won’t be hard to see white-tailed deer, but you’ll have to look closer to spot a beautiful blue racer snake slipping away in the grass. Colorful butterflies and interesting insects too numerous to mention, flit and feed on the parade on prairie plants.
Special Tips: Although there are no paths, birder access is rated good. First frost of the hard kind puts an end to the blooming wildflowers and signals some birds to head out for warmer climes. Wildlife watching diminishes, but there are still late migrants to see and signs of other animals to observe. There are no restrooms.
The SNA Program preserves natural features and rare resources of exceptional scientific and educational value. SNAs are open to the public for nature observation and education, but are not meant for intensive recreational activities due the fragile environment. It is relatively easy to walk the entire SNA, but tread lightly. Pets are not permitted.
The surrounding East Minnesota River Wildlife Refuge is a statutory refuge and is all on private land. Located between the SNA and the town of Kasota is the Kasota Prairie Conservation Area (see Also of Interest).
Other Activities: Kasota Prairie Conservation Area. Ninety acres of native prairie, plus 30 acres of restored prairie on land previously mined and still owned by Unimin Corporation. Under the stewardship of the Save the Kasota Prairie organization and the Unimin Corporation, an agreement was reached in 1984 to preserve this area as a scientific, educational and recreational resource for public use. It is a certified Wildlife Habitat Area.
The Unimin site also includes 120 acres of woods, marsh, grassland and a large beaver pond between the Prairie bluffs and the Minnesota River. In addition, there is approximately 40 acres of adjacent native and restored prairie that is managed along with the conservation zone, but not open to the public.
There is a maintained parking area. Visitors may also enjoy hiking the Unimin trails and experiencing the diversity and beauty of the unique river terrace prairie. Summer walks are made easy and accessible at this site by a winding mown path.
Ownership: MN DNR
Size: 42 acres
Closest Town: Kasota/St. Peter
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: