|Pembina Trail, Tympanuchus & Dugdale WMA|
These sites are native prairie preserves, located in the prominent gravelly beach ridges of Glacial Lake Agassiz, southeast of Crookston, MN. These are some of Minnesota’s most outstanding native prairies, featuring large expanses of marsh, grassland and calcareous fen.<br><br>The nearby Pembina...
Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge
|Description: The United States' largest tallgrass prairie and wetland reconstruction project will form the heart of the country’s newest gem—Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge. This site, located in northwestern Minnesota, will link 12 existing conservation areas, protect important habitat for migratory waterfowl and ground nesting birds, and provide opportunities for public recreation.
Initially, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) purchased the Glacial Ridge Project area in August 2000. Since, 26 cooperating agencies, led by TNC and Polk County Commissioners, provided the catalyst for this prairie restoration project, culminating in the establishment of the 545th National Wildlife in October 2004. More than 35,000 acres have been authorized and this site is a dream and work in progress.
Beach ridges, formed from Glacial Lake Agassiz, and vegetated with true tallgrass prairie, is the heart and soul of the refuge. Only about 5000 acres are native prairie; the rest has been used for gravel extraction, crop production and cattle and sheep grazing. The ultimate restoration of 8000 acres of wetlands and 16,000 acres of prairie will complement the existing untilled native prairie. To date, the TNC has restored 173 wetlands and seeded more than 11,000 acres of prairie.
This prairie wetland complex hosts a great diversity of plant species. Of special interest is the federally threatened western prairie fringed orchid. Other communities include wet and mesic tallgrass prairie and gravel prairie, willow thickets, mixed prairie, sedge meadow, aspen woodlands and emergent marsh.
In addition to its biological importance, the restoration of Glacial Ridge should help improve water quality for the city of Crookston and reduce flooding in the Red River Valley.
This site is also a stop on Minnesota’s Pine to Prairie Birding Trail.
Wildlife to Watch: When restored, Glacial Ridge will provide habitat for many of the species found presently tallied in the area. Wildlife records indicate not only dozens of birds, but also about 35 butterflies, 11 mammals, three amphibians and one reptile species are possible sightings.
In recent years, bald eagles, a peregrine falcon and a whooping crane have been spotted at Glacial Ridge. In 2007, a nesting pair of burrowing owls and their two owlets was noted on a restored prairie. Two years later, the den is still inhabited by owls—a hopeful sign indeed. Burring owls are listed as a Minnesota endangered species.
Calls of the sora, a secretive marshbird, may be heard on early summer evenings. Listen too for the distinctive loud trill of the sandhill cranes, especially in the morning and the evening as they travel to forage. Look for two birds, the greater prairie chicken and sharp-tailed grouse, using communal leks for courtship display. Northern harriers are easy to spot as they glide low over sweeping open areas in search of prey.
In addition, birds like the common snipes, woodcocks, mourning doves, bobolinks, marsh wrens, upland sandpipers, marbled godwits, Wilson's phalaropes and clay-colored, Nelson’s sharp-tailed and savanna sparrows may soon find their habitat expanded at Glacial Ridge too.
Occasionally, a visitor might be treated to the exciting discovery of a wolf or two trotting across the landscape. Or an ambling black bear too. Watch for white-tailed deer in open areas and along roadways. A few other resident species include long -tailed weasel, red fox, river otter and beaver.
Special Tips: Although this will be changing in the years to come, presently there are no signed trails. Information is posted on signs. Since Glacial Ridge is managed through the nearby Rydell NWR, it’s best to stop in at the Rydell office for a brochure and to check on current happenings on both refuges.
Greater prairie chicken, and migrating waterfowl and sandhill cranes highlight wildlife observation and photography. Wildlife viewing blinds are available April-May through the CVB at Crookston almost guarantee seeing birds relatively close up.
Other Activities: There is an Annual Prairie Appreciation Day event and some environmental education and interpretation programs that take place on this site.
Plans for future public use include:
Walking, biking and cross country ski trails
Prairie interpretive trail and kiosk
Interpretation of historic Pembina Oxcart Trail
Buffalo observation area
Ownership: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Size: 37,756 acres
Closest Town: Mentor/Crookston
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: