Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Minnesota

(952) 854-5900

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is located within the urban and suburban areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul. It is a green belt of large marsh areas bordered by office buildings, highways, residential areas, and grain terminals. The refuge is comprised of eight linear units totaling approximately 12,500 acres, spanning 34 miles of the Minnesota River.

Refuge habitats include riverine wetlands, fens, seeps, floodplain forests, oak savannas and forest, and native grasslands. More than 250 species of birds use the area at some time during the year, including nesting bald eagles and peregrine falcons. The avian diversity is complemented by at least fifty species of mammals and thirty species of reptiles and amphibians.

The focal point of the refuge is the Visitor Center, which features 8,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 125-seat auditorium, two multi-purpose classrooms, a bookstore, an art gallery, and an observation deck. Environmental education and interpretation are conducted from this facility. Recreational activities include hiking, cross-country skiing, hunting, and fishing.

Map of Minnesota Valley NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 44.805661, -93.255998

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Activities

  • Bird Watching

    Over 220 species of birds use the refuge throughout the seasons, including the wood duck, American redstart, great blue heron, American goldfinch, bald eagle, and Canada goose. The refuge is located along the Mississippi Flyway, so many species of waterfowl, songbirds, and raptors use the refuge as a stop-over on their migrations to and from breeding grounds. Many species also call the refuge lands their summer home. A printable bird checklist is available on the refuge website.

  • Fishing

    Shore fishing and ice fishing are allowed on most refuge waters. Consult Minnesota Department of Health fish consumption guidelines before eating any fish. Boat fishing is only allowed on the Minnesota River. For Minnesota River boat launch access information, please contact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The Youth Fishing Pond at the Bass Ponds is part of the Fishing in the Neighborhood program, and is stocked with bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish. All Minnesota state regulations pertaining to fishing apply. Refuge-specific regulations, which may be more restrictive, will also be enforced. Make sure to observe posted refuge boundaries and "no fishing" signs.

  • Hiking

    Trail conditions on the refuge vary throughout the year. Be prepared as you may encounter changes in trail conditions while hiking. Periodic flooding, wet or muddy areas, thorny vegetation, and rough ground might occur on the trails. Bug spray, sunscreen, and drinking water is recommended during warm weather. Trails are ungroomed in winter and may be snow packed and icy. To protect wildlife please stay on designated trails and keep pets leashed at all times while visiting the refuge. Dogs are allowed throughout the refuge. They must be leashed at all time and pet waste must be removed.

  • Historic Sites

    The luxurious valley of the Minnesota River shares its history with the Dakotah Indians, whose villages were once scattered along her banks. Later, trading posts and farms sprang up along the river and, all too soon, more settlers arrived, creating towns and cities along her route. Mercifully, the floodplain remained almost untouched by development.

    In 1934, Theodore Wirth, recognizing this verdant treasure, helped launch a plan to preserve a large expanse of the lower Minnesota River Valley. However, World War II interrupted this initiative, and it was not until the 1970s that a group of citizens picked up the banner for the preservation of the valley, then threatened by development. Through these citizens' efforts, legislation was enacted in 1976 to establish the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

    This urban refuge is built along a 99-mile corridor of the Minnesota River, much of it running through the metropolitan area of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The refuge uniquely affords a large metropolitan populace wide expanses of marshes and floodplain forests offering superb birding, wildlife viewing and outdoor education and recreation experiences.

  • Hunting

    Select units offer specific hunting opportunities during Minnesota state seasons, including opportunities for youth and people with disabilities. All Minnesota state regulations and refuge-specific regulations pertaining to hunting will be enforced. You may only hunt in the areas and during the times specified in the current year's brochure. Make sure to observe posted refuge boundary signs and no hunting zones closely since some refuge areas are adjacent buildings, private property or critical habitat areas. Stop by the visitor center to obtain a copy of the Refuge Hunting Brochure, or download a copy from their website.

  • Wildlife Watching

    The refuge is home to about 50 mammals, from the red squirrel to the coyote. Common sightings include white-tailed deer, red fox, muskrat, beaver, wood chuck, wild turkey, woodpeckers and raccoon. Thirty species of reptiles and amphibians can be found throughout the area, including the leopard frog, green frog, painted and snapping turtles, and the bull snake. A printable list of observable animals is available on the refuge website.

  • Winter Sports

    This refuge has an extensive network of about 100 trails that follow the Minnesota River and connect with adjacent state and municipal land. Cross-country skiers get the special opportunity to travel secluded areas that are inaccessible for most of the year, such as the Mazomoni Trail in Louisville Swamp. The lands may be explored by snowshoeing; visitors can bring their own or borrow a pair from the Visitor Center.

Seasonality/Weather

The refuge is open year-round and offers visitors something different with each season, whether it's the changing colors of fall, birdwatching in spring, or joining a Refuge Volunteer Interpreter for an evening wildlife walk late in a summer day.

Park Partners

Friends of the Minnesota Valley

our Citizen leaders in the Lower Minnesota River Valley were instrumental in helping establish the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in 1976. The activities of this core group led to the founding of Friends of the Minnesota Valley six years later. The Friends of the Minnesota Valley is the primary private support group for the Refuge and the Lower Minnesota River Watershed.

Building on a strong tradition of citizens dedicated to the principles of individual responsibility for stewardship of natural resources, The Friends' "Leadership in Stewardship" campaign focuses on working with a variety of stakeholders to find common ground and develop innovative conservation strategies on issues affecting the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the Lower Minnesota River Watershed.

(952) 881-9055

Directions

Driving

The Refuge Office and Visitor Center are located just off of 34th Avenue in Bloomington, Minnesota, across the street from the Minneapolis/St.Paul Airport Hilton Hotel. From I-494, visitors should take the 34th Avenue exit south to East 80th Street. Turn left on East 80th Street and proceed east for 1/4 mile to the Visitor Center entrance which is on the right.

Flying

The Refuge Office and Visitor Center are located just off of 34th Avenue in Bloomington, Minnesota, across the street from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport Hilton Hotel, near the International Airport.

Public Transportation

The refuge is located approximately a 15-minute walk from the nearest public transit.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(952) 854-5900

Links