|Talcot Lake WMA|
The WMA includes Talcot Lake and its marshes, bottomlands along the west branch of the Des Moines River, and adjacent grassland and cropland. Historically, this unit has been important for migrating waterfowl.
Red Rock Prairie / Jeffers Petroglyphs / Red Rock Dells
|Description: Many remaining prairies occur in places that escaped the plow because they were too steep or rocky. That's the case at Red Rock Prairie, where outcrops of Sioux quartzite prevented the land from being tilled. The preserve has undergone a total transformation since 1998, with the removal of an old farm site, trees, powerlines and fences. Prairie restoration work on the Nature Conservancy (TNC) preserve was completed in 2007. With 611 acres, it is large enough to give visitors a real feel of open prairie.
In the early 1980s, prairie enthusiasts found several rare plant species at Red Rock Prairie. One of these plants was the unassuming prairie bush clover. This easily-overlooked clover is state-listed as endangered and federally listed as threatened. Today, it is found at fewer than 40 sites in only four states.
You can spot prairie bush clover by its grayish-silver sheen and pale pink or cream-colored flowers, which bloom in mid-July. Around these same rocky outcrops are other rare plants such as tumblegrass, buffalo grass and mousetail. Additional prairie plants you’ll see are big bluestem, Indian grass, gray-headed coneflower, round-headed bush clover and Maximilian's sunflower. Look on wet sites at the base of slopes for cordgrass, bird-foot violet, phlox and coreopsis.
Red Rock Prairie is located in close proximity to two unique Native American and geological attractions—the Minnesota Historical Society’s Jeffers Petroglyphs and Red Rock Dells Park.
To get a picture of what animals were likely seen thousands of years ago, it’s literally carved in stone at Jeffers Petroglyphs. Amid the prairie grasses are islands of uncovered rock, where American Indians left carvings—petroglyphs—of humans, deer, elk, buffalo, turtles, thunderbirds, atlatls and arrows. They tell a story that spans 5000 years. The glyphs served many functions, including recording important events, depicting sacred ceremonies, and emphasizing the importance of animals and hunting. Today, you could easily drive right by this quiet, sacred site and have no clue of its impressive importance. While the bison and elk are gone, there is much to be learned and much to see if you look closely at this site.
The third haven to check is nearby Red Rock Dells Park. Read more about this unique water feature below. Visit these places of respite and refuge in a sea of cropland for some of the best bird and wildlife watching in the area. Red Rock Prairie and Jeffers Petroglyphs are also stopping points on the Cottonwood River Region of the Minnesota Valley Birding Trail.
Wildlife to Watch: A bubbling pip-pip-pip-pip along with a high whr-r-reep, whreeeow pierces the springtime air at Red Rock Prairie. The long-legged upland sandpiper—known as the shorebird of the prairie—makes its unmistakable call during the breeding season. Upland sandpipers migrate all the way from Pampas of Argentina to nest at this location.
Listen to the melodic song of the western meadowlark and search out sparrows—vesper, savannah and grasshopper—in the high grass. Eastern and western kingbirds are sighted throughout this area too. Other notable birds that might be seen are Smith’s longspurs and golden plovers. Be vigilant and you may spot or hear a short-eared owl.
Many incredible insects and bedazzling butterflies, including two species of special concern—regal fritillary and Poweshiek skipper—inhabit this preserve. Look for the small treasures on the variety of prairie plants covering this site.
Watch for white-tailed deer that frequent the area. Listen and look for coyotes or their families and watch big-eared, long-legged jackrabbits zipping through the prairie landscape.
Special Tips: RED ROCK PRAIRIE: Smith’s Longspurs are often seen around the third week of October. Look for Nature Conservancy signs on both sides of the road and check in the fields on the east side for the longspurs and other birds. There are no amenities at this site.
Other Activities: Jeffers Petroglyphs: At the Visitor Center (open May through September) you may view a multimedia presentation, interact with hands-on exhibits, learn to hunt buffalo using an atlatl and tour a Sioux Quartzite rock that features over 2000 petroglyphs or rock carvings. The 160-acre site features two nature trails that will suit any visitor. The short nature trail, approximately three-quarters of a mile, starts at the building and leads directly to the petroglyphs. Continue on the grass nature trail, which starts at the rockface and takes you around the site, to view beautiful prairie flowers and plants. The trail features a buffalo rub, which has a polished finish and is smooth to the touch.
Red Rock Dells Park: The trees and the gorge provided a source of water, wood and shelter from prairie winds for both animals and people for thousands of years. Today, it is a place of recreation and an opportunity to observe large cross sections of the Sioux Quartzite. Stop at the paved parking lot off the gravel road. A trail leads to a small creek, but it isn’t until you travel a little farther down the trail you find a rather large gorge with a very large waterfall (more than 20 feet) for this geological area. The creek has eroded away what must have been glacial till filling a previous river or even fault zone. This quartz is very hard rock, the hardest in Minnesota. A small creek does not easily erode it and the features of this gorge give no indications of glacier action. The rounded features of some of the walls and very large pothole remnants suggest much more violent water that what has happened since the last glacier retreated about 10,000 years ago.
Ownership: Red Rock Preserve-The Nature Conservancy (TNC); Jeffers–MN Historical Society
Size: Red Rock Preserve-611 acres; Jeffers Petroglyphs-160 acres
Closest Town: Springfield/Windom
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: