|Heron Lake System|
The lake got its name from the vast colonies of nesting black-crowned night herons that its first visitors found here over a century ago. “Heron Lake” is actually a complex of prairie lakes and marshes, one of the largest of these in North America. This famous chain lies in the heart of the prai...
Kilen Woods State Park /Prairie Bush Clover SNA
|Description: Kilen Woods State Park lies on the eastern edge of the region called the "Coteau des Prairies or “Highland of the Prairie,” offering grand views of prairies, rivers and lakes surrounding the park. This site is tucked alongside the west bank of the docile Des Moines River, where the valley changes from a broad, open floodplain into a narrow wooded corridor.
Steep bluffs and ravines of the river valley protected the trees from prairie fires that once roared across the landscape. This topography also prevented cultivation attempts, but provided settlers with fuel, food and shelter in the harsh prairie environment.
You'll find pleasant surprises as you explore trails winding through the park's oak forest, sunny river bottom meadows, flood plain forest, oak savanna and prairie. For a quiet, relaxing time, hike the cool woodland trail that meanders along the tranquil river, or enjoy the view of the river valley from Dinosaur Ridge Overlook.
Scattered bur oak trees, wild plums and hawthorns occur among prairie grasses and wildflowers at the edge of the Valley. Look for big bluestem, Indian grass, blazing star, and purple coneflowers along the grassy ravines. Seven-foot tall prairie grasses, butterfly milkweed, and grey-headed coneflowers dominate the late summer river bottom prairie.
The steep hills and thin prairie soil are home to one of the Midwest’s rarest plants: the prairie bush clover. This Federally Threatened species occurs in remnants of native tallgrass prairies in four Midwestern states. Evolving in a prairie environment, the prairie bush clover is adapted to the frequent fires that were commonplace at one time.
The 13-acre Prairie Bush Clover Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) was established within the state park to protect one of the largest populations of this plant. Look for the state park trail that passes through the SNA, providing an opportunity to view the prairie while minimizing trampling disturbance to this fragile area.
Wildlife to Watch: The Des Moines River provides a natural migration corridor. Although the park encompasses only 228 acres, the wooded hillsides and floodplain provide excellent nesting, resting and feeding areas for birds. The 226 species recorded in the park is an outstanding total count, showing the value of small habitat preservation.
Pileated woodpeckers and 25 species of neotropical warblers have been recorded in the park. The prairie areas on the uplands provide habitat for grassland birds. The cerulean warbler and Henslow’s sparrow have been recorded at this site. Wood ducks nest in tree cavities along the river's edge while herons and egrets quietly stalk the shallows and back waters. Occasionally, eagles and ospreys are seen.
The river and adjacent wetlands provide aquatic habitat for beaver and muskrat. White-tailed deer and squirrels are abundant in the park. The area hosts several species of butterflies. Red admiral butterflies are seen all summer long, while the swallowtails are around during late summer. Look for them, as well as interesting insects, gathering nectar, bobbing on the breezes and resting on the delightful wildflowers of the prairie.
Special Tips: The best times to enjoy wildflowers are in early spring to see blooming pasque flowers, and in late summer, when purple coneflowers, blazing stars, and sunflowers add a riot of color to the landscape.
Resourceful anglers catch walleyes, northerns, catfish and bullheads from the river's pools and numerous snags.
Other Activities: The SNA program preserves natural features and rare resources of exceptional scientific and educational value. Although this SNA is within the state park, it is subject to strict rules. Be sure to tread lightly and keep pets out of the area. Trails allow access throughout the park. There is poison ivy along the woodland trails, so wear long pants. Avoid wandering from trails near spongy wetland areas because they are particularly sensitive to disturbance.
Ownership: MN DNR
Size: State Park-228 acres; SNA-13 acres
Closest Town: Lakefield/Windom
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: