82,579 annual visits
6,234 overnight visits
There is no naturalist on staff at this park.
The park attracts more than 35 species of mammals, 17 species of reptiles and amphibians, and well over 100 species of birds. Rabbits, mice, and ground squirrels are common in the patches of prairie in the park. Predators of these mammals include red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, and red foxes. The hardwood forest provides habitat for opossums, skunks, Indigo buntings, ruffed grouse, and wild turkeys. In the winter, visitors report seeing bald eagles. The prairie draws uncommon species of wildlife: a lizard, the six-lined racer; and a prairie bird, the bobolink.
When the European settlers came to the area, much of the upland floodplain was plowed for crops. The soil type and the slope of the upland caused soil erosion. Check dams were installed, but even so, many fields had to be abandoned.
In the early 1960s, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of Forestry purchased much of the land that now makes up the park. At the time, plantations of red and white pine, green ash, and walnut were started. The creation of Great River Bluffs State Park in 1976 on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River Valley grew from a public need for better access to the bluffland area of southeastern Minnesota. The park's 2,835 acres lie within the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest. Classified as a "Natural State Park," park staff are dedicated to the protection and restoration of natural resources.
Glaciers made what Minnesota is today. These ice sheets, up to two miles thick, made lakes, filled in valleys, created hills, and moved millions of tons of rock and soil. Most of the bluffland area of southeastern Minnesota displays little glacial drift from any of the four major glaciers.
Great River Bluffs State Park is located in the Blufflands Landscape Region. This landscape features half-dome bluffs with sheer rock cliffs, steep valley walls, and rolling uplands. The park includes a diversity of plant communities including maple-basswood forests, old hickory, pines, goat prairies, and old fields.