Hastings Sand Coulee was identified by MCBS in the early 1990s as one of the most biologically important sites in Dakota County. The 2.5 mile-long coulee is a former glacial stream valley with deposits of wind-blown sand that provide ideal conditions for sand prairie and associated species, including the rare plants James’ polanisia (Polanisia jamesii) and narrow-leaved pinweed (Lechea tenuifolia). This is the only sizable example of sand prairie in Dakota County.
In 2001, Friends of the Mississippi River began working with the DNR and private landowners in the coulee to manage the prairie. These management activities have included numerous volunteer days to control invading trees and weeds and to restore areas where prairie had been degraded or destroyed. And in 2007, 77 acres in the southern end of the coulee were designated as a Scientific and Natural Area.