|Fort Ridgely State Park|
Fort Ridgely State Park is situated on high bluffs overlooking the Minnesota River Valley. The park, which was established in 1911, is named after the military post that occupied the site in the 1850s and 1860s. The old fort grounds became and remain within the park as a historic district.
Cedar Mountain SNA / WMA
|Description: Spectacular for its scenery, rock outcrops and plant life, especially in August when the prairie is in bloom, Cedar Mountain Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) is also a good place for wildlife watching.
The unique SNA lies on bedrock knobs and ridges that, at 3.4 billion years old, include some of the oldest rocks known to occur in North America. You won’t find older exposed rock anywhere in the state than along the Minnesota River.
These knobs were once islands in Glacial River Warren, the huge river that drained Glacial Lake Agassiz at the end of the last glacial period and cut the valley now occupied by the Minnesota River. The central knob in the area includes two rock types known only from this site: Cedar Mountain Gabbro and Cedar Mountain Granodiorite.
High-quality prairies and rock outcrops like these are uncommon in the state and becoming increasingly rare primarily due to human activities. Restoration of rock outcrop prairies on both public and private lands is taking place via prescribed burns, removal of invasive woody vegetation and re-seeding with local native prairie plant species.
The SNA supports areas of native dry and mesic prairie, floodplain forest and oak woodland habitats. It also contains several rare plant populations, including the state and federal threatened prairie bush clover, a state endangered lichen; and three rare plant species found in Minnesota almost exclusively on rock outcrops—plains prickly pear cactus, water hyssop and Carolina foxtail.
Cedar Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is adjacent to the SNA, and complements the SNA by providing additional mesic forest, food plot and reconstructed prairie habitat.
Thirty acres of mesic woodland lies immediately south of the SNA, and is characterized by a steep north facing slope containing black maple and basswood, with bur oak becoming dominant near the top of the slope. Numerous spring ephemeral wildflowers are present, including bloodroot, wild leeks and Dutchman’s breeches.
West of the SNA is a 133-acre complex of former cropland, 30 acres of which remains planted in a grain plot that provides winter food for resident wildlife. Sixty-seven acres have been seeded to a diverse mixture of prairie grasses and forbs, and the remainder of the property contains naturally-regenerating lowland hardwood forest, including silver maple and cottonwood.
Wildlife to Watch: Due to habitat diversity, 117 bird species have been recorded at this SNA. Although the WMA does not maintain a checklist, similar species would be found. There are some shorebirds and waterfowl that may be also spotted on a small pond on the south end of the SNA unit. Check the area in and around the water for red-winged blackbirds, Canada geese, wood ducks and blue-winged teal.
Watch for red-tailed hawks on high. Listen for the soft cooing of mourning doves and tapping of northern flickers, as well as red-bellied, hairy and downy woodpeckers. Swallows are often seen swooping through the air—look for tree, barn and northern rough-winged. You might even get a glimpse of smaller species, like house wrens, ruby-crowned kinglets, American redstarts, common yellowthroats and the occasional ruby-throated hummingbird. Colorful birds—northern cardinals, rose-breasted grosbeaks, eastern bluebirds and American goldfinches—flit about at Cedar Mountain too.
If you’re lucky and persistent and maybe visit the site a few times, you might find all seven flycatcher species here, as well as 17 sparrow species, and also a good number of migratory warblers. Yellow-billed and black-billed cuckoos are occasionally noted, and look for the intermittent indigo bunting in brushy areas while you are birding. Prairie species, like bobolinks, dickcissels and grassland sparrows frequent the open spaces as well.
Bald eagles have nested within about a mile of the SNA/WMA, so keep on the look out for flying and foraging eagles. An added plus—the nearby Minnesota River corridor hosts raptor and warbler migrations extraordinaire.
Look for white-tailed deer and wild turkeys near the food plots on the WMA. You may even spot a gray fox trotting through the grass or if you’re there towards dusk, hear a coyote singing.
Special Tips: Because this site is primarily situated between Wabasha Creek and the Minnesota River, it may be inaccessible in the spring during high floods.
This is an excellent birding area. However, birder access is difficult to moderate due to necessity of fording the creek from the south or walking through the prairie restoration in the WMA on the east.
Land Manager Contact:
MNDNR Ecological Resources
175 Co Rd 26
Windom MN 56101
Area Wildlife Manager
1241 E Bridge St
Redwood Falls MN 56283
Ownership: MN DNR
Size: SNA: 317 acres; WMA 163 acres in two parcels
Closest Town: Franklin / Redwood Falls
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: