Part of one of the most important migratory flyways in North America, the Mississippi River provides a 2350-mile continuous watercourse from southern wintering areas to northern nesting areas. Situated in the middle of a densely populated urban area, the Mississippi supports a surprising variety of environments for a diverse population of birds and wildlife. There are many places to watch for birds and wildlife, these are just a few:
Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary
Intersection of East Fourth Street and Commercial Street in St. Paul
The 29 acre Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary is being restored to its native plant communities and the wildlife is returning. Two small ponds attract waterfowl and the uplands are home to grasslands bird species. Turkey vultures, bald eagles, and redtail hawks soar along the sandstone bluffs.
5601 Minnehaha Drive South, Fort Snelling, MN 55111
This former Bureau of Mines campus has significantly changed in the last few years. The buildings that dominated this location are gone (except for a few historical remnants). In their place is prairie and oak savanna restoration. Wood ducks, mallards, eagles, hawks, indigo buntings, several species of sparrows, and many other birds now call Coldwater Spring their home and more seem to be arriving every year.
Coon Rapids Dam
9750 Egret Boulevard Coon Rapids, MN 55433
At Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park just north of the west side of the dam is an osprey platform. Hiking south along the river takes one to a view of a heron rookery. Along the way, watch for beaver, otter, mink and muskrat. Wading and songbirds are frequently seen as well. On the east side of the dam is Cenaiko Lake. Watch for yellow warblers in the willows around the lake.
Fort Snelling State Park
101 Snelling Lake Road, St. Paul, MN 55111
Hiking within Fort Snelling State Park along the river and backwaters will provide many opportunities for birding and wildlife watching. The mud flats are great places to spot the track of animals that make their home there. Deer, beaver, muskrat, mink, otter, and other animals make their home here.
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
3815 American Blvd. East, Bloomington, MN 55425
Stretching along the Minnesota River from the Fort Snelling area to Jordan, this national wildlife refuge includes eight different units that provide resting, nesting, and feeding for many animals, waterfowl, and migratory birds. Trails leading from the visitor centers offer great bird watching, especially during migration.