Whitewater WMA

The Whitewater WMA wildlife work area

Altura, MN 55910
[email protected]

A prescribed burn to benefit habitat at the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area.

A prescribed burn to benefit habitat at the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area.

Hunters, trappers, anglers and wildlife watchers in Wabasha, Winona and Olmsted counties benefit from the management, habitat and oversight work of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Whitewater Wildlife Management Area staff.

Wildlife Supervisor Jaime Edwards along with three full-time staff oversee more than 27,400 aces of state-owned land in the rolling hills of southeastern Minnesota.

Along with neighboring Whitewater State Park, this popular hunting, fishing and wildlife watching destination hosts an estimated 500,000 visits annually. It is particularly popular with wild turkey hunters in spring and deer and small game hunters in autumn.

For Edwards and her staff, core work includes preserving, protecting and managing wildlife habitat, and administering an antlerless-only deer hunt within a 2,300-acre state game refuge. Preserving habitat is increasingly difficult, in part, due to a growing inability to keep buckthorn and other invasive species in check.

Master plan update

Wildlife management areas are state-owned public lands acquired and managed to benefit native wildlife populations and provide the public with opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife watching and other compatible outdoor recreational uses. The master plan now being updated identifies goals, objectives and actions to achieve these ends.

Engage with DNR on Whitewater

Choose from these opportunities to learn about the Whitewater WMA master plan update and ask questions:

View the plan

Comment on Whitewater master plan update

Input on the draft master plan for the Whitewater WMA are being accepted through Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. They can be submitted:

  • Using the online form, which explains each series of questions and provides points of reference to the draft master plan.
  • Verbally at the Jan. 4 open house or Jan. 5 online webinar.
  • Sending an email containing comments to [email protected].
  • Mailing written comments to: Whitewater WMA Master Plan; Fish and Wildlife Division; 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155.
  • Delivering written comments in person to the Whitewater WMA office near Altura.

View the plan

The previous master plan was prepared in 1977. Many environmental and social changes have occurred since then. Minnesota’s population has grown, the climate has warmed, invasive species have proliferated, new state and federal policies have been enacted and many wildlife and plant populations have declined in southeast Minnesota and elsewhere in the state. A revised master plan is needed to address and manage for these changed conditions.

Issues, concerns and opportunities that have been identified by WMA users and resource professionals include:

  • The spread of invasive species.
  • Excessive littering.
  • Lower than desired abundance of game species.
  • A desire for improved habitat quality.
  • Protection of rare plants and animals.
  • Continuation of private farming within the WMA.
  • Too many people using the WMA.
What will the master plan update address

The revised master plan will give direction on:

  • Protecting, restoring, and maintaining wildlife populations, including deer, turkey, ruffed grouse, squirrel, waterfowl, cavity nesting birds and mammals, and species of greatest conservation need.
  • Protecting and enhancing habitat – including healthy and diverse forests, savannas, prairies and wetlands – to sustain a full suite of native wildlife species.
  • Enhancing human use activities such as hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and hiking in a manner that provides a quality experience while ensuring a sustainable natural environment.
Why is public involvement important?

The DNR’s mission is to work with Minnesotans to conserve and manage the state’s natural resources and provide outdoor recreation opportunities. Public feedback is essential to mapping out the future of WMAs, which are established to provide habitat for healthy populations of wildlife and quality opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping and other outdoor recreational uses.

How will public input be used in revising the master plan?

The DNR needs public feedback to make sure it is dealing with the issues that matter to people and not missing topics that should be covered in the plan.

WMA information

License Dollars At Work logo and link to pageAt about 27,400 acres, the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area is the eighth-largest WMA in the state, providing habitat for a range of species.

Located within two hours of the Twin Cities and halfway between Rochester and Winona, its proximity to much of the state’s population also makes it one of the most popular units open to the public for hunting, trapping, wildlife watching and other activities.



Overview map of the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area

Overview map of the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area

The Whitewater WMA extends across portions of Winona. Wabasha and Olmsted counties. It’s located in rugged coulee country, a “driftless area” missed by glaciers in the last ice age 12,000 years ago. Because of this, the erosive forces of water and wind have carved valleys with elevation differences of 500 feet in some areas.


Named for the Whitewater River, which flows through it, the WMA is one of eight major wildlife areas where DNR stations permanent staff.


Habitat types

Whitewater includes a mosaic of plant communities and habitat types, including some that are rare or unique. Mixed hardwood forests of oak, hickory, maple, basswood and walnut cover the steep hillsides. Bluff prairies dot south-facing slopes, and trout streams dissect the valley floor. Seventeen wetlands (both naturally occuring and man-made) dapple the valley.


Whitewater is home to a variety of wildlife, including nearly 40 rare species. Commonly hunted species found there include white-tailed deer, turkeys, ruffed grouse and squirrels. Waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and aquatic furbearers benefit from the 15 water impoundments that are drawn down every few years to mimic natural drought cycles and to encourage aquatic plant regeneration that attracts invertebrates. Wildlife watchers can spot sandhill cranes, ducks, geese, swans, black terns, hawks, eagles, owls and many other birds, both residents and those passing through during spring and fall migrations.


Whitewater’s location within an easy drive of major population centers such as the Twin Cities, Rochester and Winona, make it a popular destination. Recreation in the WMA is dominated by hunting and fishing. Approximately 48 percent of the use is deer hunting. Trout fishing makes up 25 percent, small game hunting, 12 percent; all other activities such as berry picking, bird watching, hiking and environmental study account for 15 percent. Wildlife watching is growing in popularity. Springtime brings many shed hunters looking for lost deer antlers.


Typical management activities at Whitewater may include efforts to control invasive species such as garlic mustard and European buckthorn; prescribed fire to regenerate native plants; timber harvests to enhance forest wildlife habitat; cooperative farming agreements where food plots are consistent with management goals; maintaining or enhancing user access via improvements to parking and hunter trails; and water level manipulation in wetlands.

Our work
License Dollars At Work logo and link to page
  • Annually conducting prescribed burns on 500-1,500 acres of grassland and forest.
  • Planning and administering more than 300 acres of timber sales each year to improve wildlife habitat for numerous species including wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, deer, woodcock, and numerous non-game species.
  • Managing invasive species such as buckthorn, honeysuckle, black locust, wild parsnip and garlic mustard to reduce their spread.
  • Managing 2,700 acres of farming agreements to provide winter food plots for deer, wild turkeys and ring-necked pheasants.
  • Maintaining 26 miles of access roads and 60 parking areas to provide user access to the WMA.
  • Maintaining 150 miles of property boundary, much of which is in steep terrain and not easily accessible.