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Minnesota DNR

Minnesota State Parks

Geneva Lake Wildlife Management Area
Locally referred to as “Lake Geneva”, this site is a wildlife oasis surrounded by farm country. Located in the southern-most tier of Minnesota counties, its prairie pothole status serve as a magnet for migratory waterfowl. <br><br> Geneva Lake is a large 1875-acre wetland with an average depth ...
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Myre-Big Island State Park
Description: In 1947, the Minnesota Department of Conservation was authorized to buy the 116-acre island in Albert Lake as a park. While referred to locally as Big Island State Park, the site did not receive an official name until 1953, when it was formally dubbed Myre State Park to honor the senator, who along with other area residents, had advocated so ardently for its formation.

It was later called Helmer Myre State Park before finally morphing into its current name. Through the years more land was added, parcel-by-parcel, and lake and land restoration commenced.

Today, Myre-Big Island State Park, located just a few miles from the Iowa border and minutes off the freeway, is an oasis of natural diversity in an oak savanna landscape surrounded by agricultural land uses. More than 2000 park acres now protect the unique features of this region's geologic, botanic and human history.

The park has something for everyone—wet lowlands, oak savanna and grasslands, a lake and an island filled with wildflowers. There is even a glacial esker to explore.

Oak savanna dominated the landscape prior to European settlement and farming of the area. A goal of park management is to restore the land to its pre-settlement state. Typical prairie grasses that are once again taking their rightful place include big and little bluestem, side-oats grama, porcupine, Indian and switch grasses. Flowering plants such as leadplant, rattlesnake master, prairie clover, prairie smoke, bottle gentian, blazing star, black-eyed Susan and numerous coneflowers are also now gracing the grasslands.

One of the more unique aspects of the 116-acre Big Island, which is connected to the mainland by a causeway, is it contains maple-basswood forest. This regularly northern hardwood forest is found only on the island, maintains itself and is typified by maple, basswood, ash, elm, ironwood, and red oak trees. Because of lake, the island was protected from fires that swept over the area in the past. Wildflowers are a draw to the spot with the unfurling of spring beauty, bloodroot, hepatica, Dutchman’s breeches, ginger and trout lily.

Wetland plant communities once found throughout the park are being restored. Most are found in prairie areas. Wetlands provide habitat for migratory waterfowl. Preservation of the original habitat is done by using controlled burns and seeding programs. Wetland rehabilitation is being done by removing old farm tiles, diking low areas and installing structures to control water levels.

After so much hard work, this place is well on its way to recovery. Today, its quiet setting represents respite for humans and wildlife alike.

Wildlife to Watch: The park is considered one of the many good birding spots in southern Minnesota, especially during spring and fall migration. Due to the variety of habitats, this site boasts one of the largest and most diverse bird checklists of any state park in Minnesota. These habitats include Albert Lea Lake, a gathering place for abundant numbers of migrant waterfowl and gulls. Marsh, prairie and woodland are also prevalent. The Great Marsh is an excellent area for viewing waterfowl. Woodlands and edge habitat provide areas for flycatchers, sparrows, woodpeckers, thrushes, warblers and vireos. Numerous ponds offer feeding and gathering areas for five species of swallows.

Birds of prey such as the American kestrel, marsh hawk, red-tailed hawk, rough-legged hawk, great horned owl, and bald eagle are regular visitors.

Shore and wading birds reported include the common egret, great blue heron, American bittern, sora and Virginia rail. Wood duck, mallard, blue-winged tea and Canada goose are commonly seen. Indigo bunting, eastern bluebird, rose-breasted grosbeak, northern oriole and eastern wood pewee are just a few of the songbirds to be seen.

White-tailed deer, raccoon, red and gray fox, muskrat, opossum, squirrels and several species of bats reside at the park. Eastern and red-sided garter snakes, northern red-bellied and northern brown snakes are found on this site. Listen for choruses of leopard and wood frogs. In moist places, it is possible to see shy eastern tiger salamanders.

Special Tips: Western painted and snapping turtles may be found basking on sunny days.

Other Activities: Wildflowers are noteworthy on Big Island and add to an outing for wildlife watching.

Ownership: MN DNR 
Size: 1028 acres 
Closest Town: Albert Lea

RestroomsParkingTent CampingCross Country SkiingHikingPicnic tablesBoat LaunchFeeLarge BoatsSmall BoatsTrailer CampingDrinking WaterBicycling

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:

Cedar Waxwing - Photo by Carrol Henderson
Please use Map Link below

Driving Directions:
Located three miles southeast of Albert Lea on County Highway 38. Interstates 90 and 35 intersect just north of Albert Lea. Both interstates have signs directing visitors to the park.

Map Link

Myre-Big Island State Park : Wildlife Viewing Area