• Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

    Mississippi

    National River & Recreation Area Minnesota

Dragonfly Watching

A person holds a bright green and rusty red dragonfly.

Common green darners have been observed in downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota at the park's headquarters.

Dragonfly watching (along with damselflies) is a rapidly-growing hobby. And, unlike birds which are best observed in very early morning, dragonflies often aren't active until mid-morning. Dragonfly watchers always have time for a leisurely breakfast and an extra cup of coffee!

But what does one need to get started?

Locations
Dragonflies and damselflies (collectively "Odonata") live just about everywhere within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area corridor. They have even been seen by our staff at our headquarters in downtown St. Paul!

Certain species, however, will have a preference for certain types of habitat. They are also not present all year as adults, but generally dragonfly and damselfly species appear by late April and continue to fly until October. You can find this information for selected species on this website or in field guides.

Field Guides
There are many fine field guides, but one might consider Dragonflies of the North Woods by Kurt Mead and Damselflies of the North Woods by Bob DuBois and Mike Reese. Both can be found in local bookstores or ordered online.

While these two field guides are designed to cover an area just to our north, there are very few dragonflies and damselflies within our area that won't be in these books. If you prefer buying just one of these books the Kurt Mead book not only has the dragonflies, but also a short introduction to the more common Minnesota damselflies as well.

Binoculars
Binoculars aren't needed, but may be helpful in some instances when dragonflies are perching on lilypads some distance from shore or in the tops of trees. It is particularly important to purchase close-focusing binoculars since usually you will be observing behavior from just a few feet away.

Lists
Like birders, many dragonfly watchers keep lists of where and when they see Odonata species. A list may be for just a single pond, park, county, state, or country. Some watchers have a life list, which is all species that they have seen regardless of location.

Get Involved
Because the distribution of the Odonata are not well understood within Minnesota, the Minnesota Odonata Survey Project (MOSP), funded by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is recruiting citizen scientists to survey these fascinating insects. Citizen scientists--you--are helping to determine which Odonata live within Minnesota and where they are found.

Representatives of MOSP provide day-long training sessions held around the state. This is a great way to get involved with dragonfly watching and meeting enthusiasts from around the state.

Did You Know?

The wide Mississippi River

At Lake Onalaska, near LaCrosse WI, the Mississippi River is about 4 miles wide. The combination of water held behind Lock and Dam #7 and water held by damming the Black River form this broad reach of the Mississippi River.