|Lake of the Woods|
Lake of the Woods is one of Minnesota’s relatively unexplored natural treasures. It is the 100th largest lake in the world. With 65,000 miles of shoreline, 10 miles wide and 14,000 islands, this lake represents Minnesota and southern Canada at their best.
The lake can be accessed on ...
Red Lake WMA / Beltrami Island State Forest
|Description: If you want a remote and peaceful place for wildlife watching with minimal disturbance, this is it. Not far from Lake of the Woods and the Canadian border, this site combines the Red Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and Beltrami Island State Forest.
An expanse of 322,630 acres makes the Red Lake WMA the largest in the state. Most of the forest roads in the WMA run along the beach ridges of Glacial Lake Agassiz, where you will find sandy soils and the upland forests. Much of the site, however, is lowland bog, including several bog lakes and two impounded marshes. The bog is both open and forested, with limited access.
Black spruce and tamarack habitats, as well as hardwoods, lowland brush, open bog and fen are part of the landscape. You can also enjoy upland forests of aspen, jack pine, birch, white spruce and balsam fir. As you explore these habitats, look for unique species such as bog laurel, pitcher plants, sundew and Indian pipe. Many exquisite orchid species may also be seen blooming here, including Minnesota’s state flower, the large, pretty, pink and white Showy lady’s slipper. Fringed gentian and yellow and pink stemless lady’s slipper also grace the site.
In the 1930s the federal government initiated public works programs such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The WMA headquarters is Norris Camp, an old CCC encampment, which is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Established in 1936, the camp retains many of the original buildings and now serves as the headquarters of the WMA. The men of the CCC planted many of the stately pine plantations seen throughout the forest.
Beltrami Island State Forest: The "island" in the forest's name refers to an area of higher terrain that may have existed as an island within the waters of Glacial Lake Agassiz.
Much of northwestern Minnesota was reserved for the Ojibwe under the "Old Crossing" Treaty of 1863. The area north of Upper Red Lake was ceded to the U.S. government in 1889, but the Red Lake Band retains many parcels within the forest.
A land boom in the early 1900s attracted farmers to the area. Although there was widespread ditching of the peat lands for agriculture, the sandy soils and extensive swamps proved to be unsuitable for farming. By 1940 most of the settlers had left. Abandoned homesteads and cemeteries may still be discovered in the forest.
Red Lake WMA and Beltrami Island State Forest are also two of 45 sites along the Pine to Prairie Birding Trail. The route is about 200 miles long and offers an array of habitats with a checklist of more than 275 bird species.
Wildlife to Watch: Approximately 200 bird species frequent the area, with l44 of these presumed nesters. There are numerous species found at this location that would excite a bird lister.
For starters, it is a great place to see wood warblers in the spring and early summer. Twenty warbler species may be sighted along the non-motorized trails within this WMA. However, of particular interest are the boreal forest obligates; such as the Connecticut warbler and the Canada warbler. Scan for common yellowthroat, American redstart, yellow, chestnut-sided, yellow-rumped, black-throated green, palm, blackburnian and black-and-white warblers too.
Some of the other birds of the north woods you might spot include ruffed, spruce and sharp-tailed grouse, common nighthawk, short-eared owl, sandhill crane, sora, American bittern, yellow rail, winter wren, broad-winged hawk, gray jay, common raven, boreal chickadee, pileated woodpecker, red-breasted nuthatch, hermit thrush, red-eyed vireo, ovenbird, Nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrow, black-billed cuckoo, alder flycatcher, pine and evening grosbeaks, and red and white-winged crossbills.
Listen for rare black-backed and three-toed woodpeckers pecking in the woods and whip-poor-wills calling at dusk. Look skyward for turkey vultures, northern goshawks and red-tailed hawks soaring overhead. Great horned and barred owls are common, but you may even occasionally get a glimpse of a great gray or boreal owl sitting camouflaged in a tree.
When you visit, you’ll also be sharing the land with smaller mammals like snowshoe hares, beaver, otter, mink, marten, short-tailed weasel lemmings and red squirrels. White-tailed deer are often observed. If you’re very lucky, the more elusive timber wolf, fisher, lynx, black bear or bobcat may be a thrilling part of your wildlife watching experience. If you are lucky, you may encounter a moose or lynx.
Special Tips: The best time for viewing many of the unique species is in the spring, when they are not yet secretive and before the trees leaf out. Winter, when the leaves are long gone, yields good birding too and in fact, winter is the best time to see great gray owl, northern hawk owl, and both crossbill species.
Remote. NO cell phone coverage. 25-30 miles from any gas stations. Due to its vast expanse, it’s possible to get lost at this location. Be prepared with a compass and a good set of maps before venturing into the forest. A GPS unit would be very helpful. Take water and snacks along, as well as a hat, long-sleeved shirt and mosquito repellent.
Accessible only by forest roads and walking trails. Some roads may be gated during very wet periods in spring. In winter many forest roads are not plowed. Visitors should contact the Norris Camp headquarters for current road and trail conditions.
The headquarters has bathrooms and telephones, but they are usually open only on weekdays.
Land Manager Contact:
Red Lake WMA
11536 Faunce Butterfield Rd SW
Roosevelt MN 56673
West half of state forest:
Beltrami State Forest
Area Forest Supervisor
804 Cherne Dr NW
Warroad MN 56763
East half of state forest:
Beltrami State Forest
Area Forest Supervisor
206 Main St E
Baudette MN 56623
Other Activities: The Shultz Walking Trail (2 miles south of Norris Camp) is maintained for wheelchair access. The eastern half of the Rapid River Road and the Roseau Flowage, a wildlife impoundment on the Roseau River off Dick’s Parkway Forest Road, are highly recommended for wildlife watching.
The only groomed winter trails are for snowmobiles, but backcountry skiing and snowmobiling are permitted. There are miles of mowed walking trails. No licensed motor vehicles except on designated routes. Mountain biking is allowed on the forest roads and trails and on trails marked for non-motorized use.
Ownership: MN DNR
Size: Red Lake WMA 322,630 acres; Beltrami SF 660,000 acres
Closest Town: Williams / Warroad
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: