Visit an old-growth forest

Old-growth forest comes in a variety of types, changing from south to north across the state and also according to the most common types of trees found in the forest. To sample the intriguing variation in old-growth forests, visit any of the following easily reached protected areas open to the public.

Locations of some old-growth forests you can visit

Map showing locations in Minnesota where you can visit an old-growth forest.

A bed of spring wildflowers covers the forest floor.

A bed of spring flowers covers the forest floor.

1. Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods SNA

Old-growth forest type

  • Northern hardwoods

Description

This old-growth consists of 115 acres of mostly sugar maple forest, with white cedar, white spruce, white pine, and yellow birch. Former use of the forest as a sugar bush reduced the variety of trees, but several rare plant species only associated with northern hardwoods grow here (Chilean sweet cicely, blunt-fruited sweet cicely, and Carolina spring beauty).

Map and location of SNA


Yellow birch seedlings start their lives on an old white cedar nurse log.

Yellow birch seedlings start their lives on an old white cedar nurse log.

2. George H. Crosby-Manitou State Park

Old-growth forest types

  • Northern Hardwoods
  • Upland White Cedar

Description

Within the state park are found a 166-acre northern hardwoods forest and a 196-acre upland white cedar forest. Ancient trees grow here: yellow birch are 400 years old; white cedar 300; and sugar maple 200, years old.

Map and location of park


Changing colors glow in the old forests of Tettegouche State Park.

Changing colors glow in the old forests of Tettegouche State Park.>

3. Tettegouche State Park

Old-growth forest types

  • Northern Hardwoods
  • Upland White Cedar
  • Black Ash
  • Oak

Description

In the park occur 294 acres of northern hardwoods, 142 acres of upland white cedar, 74 acres of black ash, and 94 acres of oak forest. Small patches of old white pine also are found here, but do not by themselves constitute old-growth forest. Yellow birch has been aged at 290 years, sugar maple at 225, and white cedar at 220 years. Fall color is spectacular viewed from the ridgetop overlooks along the Superior Hiking Trail. Black bears congregate here in the fall to eat acorns, hazelnuts, and berries.

Map and location of park


An easily accessible remnant of an ancient red and white pine forest.

Lost 40 SNA harbors an easily accessible remnant of an ancient red and white pine forest.

4. Lost 40 SNA

Old-growth forest types

  • Red Pine
  • White Pine
  • White Spruce

Description

Ancient white pines over 300 years old grow in a mostly red pine forest of 28 acres next to an 18-acre old-growth forest of white spruce and balsam fir. Wildflowers abound, especially in June and early July. A surveyor's error in 1882 classified this area as wetland and it was never cut.

Map and location of SNA


Fire-scarred red pines; controlled fires set at Itasca State Park encourage regrowth of pines.

Controlled fires set at Itasca State Park encourage regrowth of pines. (photo by Jon Rosales)

This massive white pine is the largest in the park, measuring 55

This massive white pine is the largest in the park, measuring 55" in diameter. (photo by Jon Rosales)

5. Itasca State Park Wilderness Sanctuary SNA

Old-growth forest types

  • Red Pine
  • White Pine
  • Northern Hardwoods
  • Lowland Hardwoods

Description

The state's first public sanctuary (1938) for the protection and study of nature, this area not surprisingly has some of the best old-growth forests in Minnesota. The tally is impressive: 1,804 acres of red pine, 529 acres of white pine, 1,741 acres of mixed red-white pine forest, 92 acres of northern hardwoods, and 32 acres of lowland hardwoods. An additional 989 acres of old-growth forest may also be designated. The pines are 100–300 years old and are being subjected to controlled fires, which clear out the underbrush and stimulate a new generation of pines to begin growing. Two rare plants—bog adder's mouth and matricary grape-fern—as well as the uncommon northern goshawk can be seen. May and June are most spectacular for wildflowers—including calypso orchids.

Map and location of SNA




Bloodroot blooms in April and early May in southern Minnesota hardwood forests.

Bloodroot blooms in April and early May in southern Minnesota hardwood forests.

6. Wolsfeld Woods SNA

Old-growth forest type

  • Northern Hardwoods

Description

A piece of the 5,000 square mile Big Woods—now virtually gone—in south-central Minnesota, this forest of red oak, sugar maple, basswood, and American elm towers over a delightful May wildflower show. Few other Big Woods remnants contain so many large diameter trees.

Map and location of SNA


Wildflowers blanket the ground at Townsend Woods Scientific and Natural Area.

Wildflowers blanket the ground at Townsend Woods Scientific and Natural Area.

7. Townsend Woods SNA

Old-growth forest type

  • Northern Hardwoods

Description

This is one of the best examples of the Big Woods—a nearly obliterated forest region in south-central Minnesota once covering 5,000 square miles—where large sugar maple, red oak, basswood, and white oak reside. Because woods are so rare in the area, this old-growth forest is an important stop-over for migrating songbirds from late April to early June.

Map and location of SNA


Field evaluators pose by a large red oak in Sakatah Lake State Park in Le Sueur County.

Field evaluators pose by a large red oak in Sakatah Lake State Park in Le Sueur County.

8. Sakatah Lake State Park

Old-growth forest type

  • Oak

Description

Located just a few miles east of Minnesota's Prairie Region, this old-growth forest was influenced by frequent fires over the centuries. As a result, ancient oaks are the most common trees, and prairie plants grow along the area's roadsides and railroad lines.

Map and location of park