Visit an old-growth forest

Minnesota is home to many types of old growth forests. Click on the map below to find out more these intriguing variation of old growth forests and how you can visit them.

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Itasca Wilderness Sanctuary Scientific and Natural Area

Old Growth Forest Types

  • Red Pine
  • White Pine
  • Northern Hardwoods
  • Lowland Hardwoods

Description

This area was the state’s first public sanctuary (1938) for the protection and study of nature. Not
surprisingly, it has some of the best old growth forests in Minnesota. The tally is impressive: 1,804 acres of red pine, 529 acres of white pine, 1,741 acres of mixed red-white pine, 92 acres of northern hardwoods, and 32 acres of lowland hardwoods. The pines are 100-300 years old. They periodically undergo controlled fires to clear out the underbrush and stimulate a new generation of pine growth.

Map and location of Itasca Wilderness Sanctuary Scientific and Natural Area

Lost 40 Scientific and Natural Area

Old Growth Forest Types

  • Red Pine
  • White Pine
  • White Spruce

Description

The Lost 40 SNA owes its old growth pine forests to an error that occurred during the Public Land Survey in 1882. As the story goes, loggers overlooked the pines because surveyors mistakenly mapped the area as Coddington Lake, which is actually located a half-mile to the southeast. Surveyors corrected the error in 1960. Shortly thereafter, the area was incorporated into Big Fork State Forest and its old trees have since endured.

Map and location of Lost 40 Scientific and Natural Area

Savanna State Forest

Old Growth Forest Types

  • Black Ash
  • Upland White Cedar
  • Northern Hardwood
  • Oak
  • Red Pine
  • White Pine

Description

Savanna State Forest comprises a mixture of hilly hardwood terrain and wild grass meadows, and boasts the mighty Mississippi along its western border. Look for aspen, maple, basswood, birch, black spruce, tamarack, and cedar. The forest also claims Savanna Portage, the famously rough and swampy six-mile portage linking the west Savanna River of the Mississippi River system with the east Savanna River, which eventually empties into the Great Lakes.

Map and location of Savanna State Forest

Nemadji State Forest

Old growth Forest Type

  • Black Ash
  • Lowland Hardwood
  • Northern Hardwood
  • Oak

Description

The terrain of Nemadji State Forest varies from gently rolling with large swamp areas in the south to steep stream valleys and elongated swamps protruding into the forest in the northeast. The northern third of the forest drains into the Lake Superior Basin-Nemadji River Watershed, while the southern two-thirds drain into the St. Croix River Basin. Much of the original white spruce, cedar, and white and red pined were
logged and floated down the Nemadji, Willow, and Tamarack rivers to Stillwater, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin in the early 1800s. After the forest was logged, numerous fires burned through the cutover land. Settlers then tried to farm the area, but discovered the land was better suited for trees than crops.

Map and location of Nemadji State Forest

Tettegouche State Park

Old growth Forest Type

  • Northern Hardwoods
  • Upland White Cedar
  • Black Ash
  • Oak

Description

This park contains 294 acres of northern hardwoods, 142 acres of upland white cedar, 74 acres of black ash, and 94 acres of oak forest. Small patches of old white pine also are found here, but do not by themselves constitute old growth forest. The yellow birch in the park is roughly 290 years old, the sugar maple 225, and the white cedar 220 years old. Fall color is spectacular and can be viewed from the ridgetop overlooks along the Superior Hiking Trail. Black bears congregate here in the fall to eat acorns, hazelnuts, and berries.

Map and location of Tettegouche State Park

George Crosby Manitou State Park

Old growth Forest Type

  • Northern Hardwoods
  • Upland White Cedar

Description

This state park contains a 166-acre northern hardwoods forest and a 196-acre upland white cedar forest. Ancient trees grow here: some yellow birch trees are 400 years old, while white cedar trees can reach 300 years and sugar maple 200 years.

Map and location of park

Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods Scientific and Natural Area

Old growth Forest Type

  • Northern Hardwoods

Description

This old growth forest contains 115 acres of mostly sugar maple forest with white cedar, white spruce, white pine, and yellow birch. Former use of the forest as a sugar bush (for maple syrup production) reduced the variety of trees, but several rare plant species only associated with northern hardwoods grow here, such as Chilean sweet cicely, blunt-fruited sweet cicely, and Carolina spring beauty.

Map and location of Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods Scientific and Natural Area

Wolsfeld Woods Scientific and Natural Area

Old growth Forest Types

  • Northern Hardwoods

Description

This area is a piece of the 5,000 square mile Big Woods—now virtually gone—in south-central Minnesota. The forest contains red oak, sugar maple, basswood, and American elm and towers over a delightful May wildflower show. Few other Big Woods remnants contain so many large diameter trees.

Map and location of Wolsfeld Woods Scientific and Natural Area

Sakatah Lake State Park

Old growth Forest Types

  • Oak

Description

Located just a few miles east of Minnesota's Prairie Region, frequent fires shaped this old growth forest. As a result, ancient oaks are the most common trees, and prairie plants grow along the area's roadsides and railroad lines.

Map and location of Sakatah Lake State Park

Townsend Woods Scientific and Natural Area

Old growth Forest Types

  • Northern Hardwoods

Description

This is one of the best examples of the Big Woods—a nearly obliterated forest region in south-central Minnesota once covering 5,000 square miles—where large sugar maple, red oak, basswood, and white oak reside. Because woods are so rare in the area, this old growth forest is an important stop-over for migrating songbirds from late April to early June.

Map and location of Townsend Woods Scientific and Natural Area