Upper Sioux Agency State Park
|Description: Established in 1963, Upper Sioux Agency State Park contains the historic site of the Upper Sioux or Yellow Medicine Indian Agency. The park was established to preserve and interpret the remains of the old 1854 Agency site, where treaty terms were overseen.
For tens of thousands of years, glaciers advanced, covered and retreated over central Minnesota. These glaciers left several hundred feet of rock sand gravel, known as glacial drift, which covered the granite and gneiss bedrock. Upper Sioux Agency State Park sits on a plateau of this glacial drift.
The landscape in the park is diverse with grasslands, wetlands, woods, rivers, open prairie knolls, old fields and meadows. Scattered bur oaks are the oldest trees in the park. This site is located at the confluence of the Yellow Medicine and Minnesota rivers, with the latter flowing along the park's northern boundary. The rugged scenic beauty of the river valley may be viewed along the trails and the prairie knolls.
The bluffs contain prairie habitats that add to the diversity of birdlife in the park. Wooded hillsides provide excellent habitat for migrating and breeding birds. This location is a designated stop on the Minnesota River Valley Birding Trail.
Wildlife to Watch: More than 210 species of birds have been recorded here during the breeding season. Red-shouldered hawks, who spot prey while perched, are often sighted. Red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures and white pelicans catch the air currents above the valley. Bald eagles use the park year around, especially in winter when there is open water on the Minnesota River.
The repetitive call of the nocturnal whip-poor-will may occasionally be heard during spring migration. Wild turkeys abound, both in the park and the surrounding area. Ring-necked pheasants scamper through the prairie terrain.
A delightful number of passerines use the park for feeding, resting and nesting. Eighteen warbler, five vireo, ten flycatcher, seven thrush and 17 sparrow species may spotted throughout the site for those with very sharp eyes. Chipping, vesper, savannah, song and swamp sparrows are common, as are eastern bluebirds, catbirds, cedar waxwing, warbling vireos, bobolinks and Baltimore orioles.
Watch for white pelicans and great blue herons along edges of shallow pools and double-crested cormorants perching on snags. Spotted sandpipers, killdeer and other shorebirds frequently hunt for insects on the gravel bars and mud flats along the river.
The quiet hiker may find hollow trees drilled full of circular holes that contain the woodland nest sites of downy woodpeckers or barred owls. The patient visitor standing near large oaks can find deer, squirrels and wood ducks feeding on the annual crop of acorns.
On the last warm sunny days of autumn, bull, garter and red-bellied snakes may be found more readily in the browning grasses of the prairie knolls.
Special Tips: Late in the summer, hundreds of monarch butterflies feed on the prairie’s wildflowers, such as blazing star and butterfly milkweed.
Other Activities: Stay the night in a Tipi! Upper Sioux Agency State Park has two 18-foot diameter canvas tipis available to rent.
Ownership: MN DNR
Size: 1280 acres
Closest Town: Granite Falls
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: