138,156 annual visits
3,018 overnight visits
Raccoons, mink, muskrat, wood duck, and beaver are some of the animals that benefit from the protection of the river valley habitats. Thousands of song birds and waterfowl are attracted to the extensive wetlands in the valley as they make their annual migrations through the valley flyway. Along the trails in upland areas you may see white-tail deer, rabbits, squirrels, or red and grey fox.
You are surrounded by history as you travel through the Minnesota River Valley. The Dakota people gave the river its name: Mini Sota and fished, hunted, and harvested wild rice from floodplain lakes. Many place names are reminders of Dakota leaders whose villages were located along the lower Minnesota River: Black Dog, Shakopee, and Mazomani. In the early 1600s, European explorers, fur traders, and missionaries traveled the Minnesota River and by the 1860s settlers built homesteads and farmed along the river's fertile banks. As railroads replaced steamboats, many river towns became ghost towns. In the Minnesota Valley Recreation Area you can see the only remaining building from the town of St. Lawrence or visit the Jabs Farm Homestead. You can also enjoy the landscape and wildlife that has attracted people here for centuries.
Over 10,000 years ago, the Glacial River Warren, flowing from Glacial Lake Agassiz, cut through what is today, the Minnesota River Valley. When the glacial river retreated,it left a broad valley with a much smaller stream. In places, the valley is five miles wide and 300 feet deep.
The Minnesota River Valley is a rich mosaic of plant and animal communities. The valley holds floodplain marshes, wet meadows, fens, and lakes. These wetlands are maintained by the river and by the spring-fed streams draining from the base of the bluffs. The hillsides and bluffs support oak forest and oak savanna remnants. They offer outstanding scenic overlooks. As the seasons unfold, you will find spring wildflowers, fall colors, abundant wildlife, and the every-changing river landscape.