|Hok-Si-La Municipal Park|
Hok-Si-La Park hugs Lake Pepin just north of Lake City, a beautiful community located in the Mississippi Bluffs Region of southeast Minnesota. Situated along the shores of Lake Pepin, a naturally occurring lake on the Mississippi River, and between sandstone bluffs formed in the early Paleozoic ...
McCarthy Lake WMA / Kellogg-Weaver Dunes SNA / Preserve
|Description: In 1989, the Nature Conservancy(TNC) acquired the Weaver Dunes Preserve. Two years later, the Kellogg Weaver Dunes Scientific And Natural Area (SNA) was established a half-mile north of the preserve by the Department of Natural Resources. Both parcels fall under SNA protection with restrictions to maintain ecological integrity by minimizing human impact. The McCarthy Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA), with its 3133 acres, is adjacent to the west. In addition, all three parcels are in close proximity to the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
While the mosaic of land ownership may be confusing, the terrain of this complex is not involved with jurisdictional boundaries and offers wonderful diversity of habitat and wildlife watching opportunities.
Kellogg-Weaver Dunes SNA contains waving sand dune topography well above the current floodplain of the Mississippi River, on a terrace where the Mississippi, Chippewa and Zumbro Rivers once came together. Some dunes are 30 feet high. The site encompasses a diversity of successional stages ranging from blowouts with bare sand to mature dunes with dry, mesic, or wet prairie species. An oak savanna, with pin oak, bur oak and jack pine, occurs along the edges.
On the sand prairies you’ll find spiderwort, hoary puccoon, June grass, leadplant, silky aster, purple prairie clover and prairie larkspur. The sand dunes offer up another parade of wildflowers from pasque flowers in early spring to sunflowers of late summer.
TNC Weaver Dunes Preserve visitors will be captivated by the majestic sand dunes and variety of vegetation on the site. It is similar to the landscape of the SNA. The area’s rolling sand dunes and adjacent wetland and savanna support a wide array of bird and animal species too.
McCarthy Lake WMA has mixed upland and lowland hardwoods of oak, maple, ash, birch, cottonwood and willow. Upland fields consists of native warm and cool season grasses. Former channel of Zumbro River dissects unit and has created numerous wetlands including wild rice.
Wildlife to Watch: Watch for turtle crossing signs on the highway. Blanding’s turtles, a state species of special concern, require grasslands like the ones found here for nesting and nearby marshes for feeding and wintering. One of the largest populations of the rare Blanding's turtle uses this site, which provides an ideal habitat of calm, shallow waters rich in aquatic vegetation, with sandy uplands for nesting. Unfortunately, roadways separate the water and upland habitats, which means that both the mature females and their hatchlings risk being killed by vehicles during their journeys in June and late August.
This habitat is also home to hognose and bull snakes, the latter being Minnesota’s largest snake species. If you are fortunate to encounter a snake or turtle, please leave it alone. Although it may be tempting to take one home for a pet, even temporarily, this is disruptive and detrimental to the animal.
Birders travel to the area to see nesting Bell’s vireos, willow flycatchers and orchard orioles. Look for lark and grasshopper sparrows and sandhill cranes that nest on the prairies and grasslands. It’s possible to catch a glimpse of a loggershead shrike or their impaled prey too. Other species you might see here include mourning doves, western meadowlark, sedge wrens, dickcissels and upland sandpipers. Ring-necked pheasants run through the fields and sometimes are seen along the roadways.
Wild rice in the wetland attracts blue-winged teal, wood ducks and mallards. Tundra swans and numerous shore birds may be commonly observed on the WMA and Mississippi River, especially during migration.
Look for American kestrels hovering overhead and turkey vultures circling in kettles. If you’re lucky, you might spot a rare peregrine falcon.
Watch for white-tailed deer in woods and wetland, beavers and muskrats on the water and mink along the shore. The plains pocket mouse, a species of special concern, has been found at Weaver Dunes Preserve.
With such an incredible variety of wildflowers, you won’t have any difficulty spotting beautiful butterflies, such as the regal fritillary and Ottoe skipper, and intriguing insects too numerous to mention.
Special Tips: In the spring or fall you may witness a prescribed burn, conducted to deter shrubs and to revitalize the prairie. A map is necessary to decipher the exact boundaries of these parcels with differing ownership and missions, but boundaries should be marked by signs.
Other Activities: The sand dunes provide another special mid-summer event when the rough-seeded fameflower blooms daily after 4:30 p.m. for just three hours. Midsummer is a good time, too, to observe the rare yellow-fruited sedge and Ottoe skipper butterfly amidst the unusual grasses and wildflowers. Fall is perfect for enjoying blazing stars, purple coneflowers and sunflowers. As with all fragile environments, please tread carefully and refrain from picking wildflowers.
Autumn brings migrating raptors and waterfowl down the flyway. With the arrival of fall, the foliage of the sand prairie and flood plain forests are spectacular. In winter, bald eagles are easy to spot soaring and perched in trees along the Mississippi.
Ownership: MN DNR
Size: McCarthy Lake WMA-3133 acres, Kellogg-Weaver Dunes SNA-697 acres, TNC Weaver Dunes-592
Closest Town: Kellogg
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: