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

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. A master plan identifies goals, objectives and actions to achieve those ends.

Whitewater's newly revised master plan gives direction on:

  • Protecting, restoring, and maintaining wildlife populations, which include:
    • Deer
    • Turkey
    • Ruffed grouse
    • Squirrel
    • Waterfowl
    • Cavity-nesting birds and mammals
    • 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.
View the master 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.


Back to top