Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas 
What are they?


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Scientific and Natural Areas are exceptional places where native plants and animals flourish; where rare species are protected; and where we can know, and study, Minnesota's fascinating natural features.

They protect natural features of exceptional scientific or educational value including:

They may also contain:

Examples include:

  • World-class peatlands in northern Minnesota,
  • native prairie remnants in western and southern Minnesota,
  • unique shorelines along Lake Superior, and
  • the blufflands of the southeastern Minnesota.

Protection of multiple sites in each landscape region is a vital means of capturing the genetic diversity and preventing the loss of important species, communities, and features. This strategy observes the wisdom of not putting all our eggs in one basket.

Characteristics that distinguish Natural Areas include:

  • Undisturbed plant communities, such as prairie or peatlands
  • Rare or endangered species habitat, such as the sunny rock outcrops needed for the "uncommon" five-lined skink
  • Seasonal habitat for bird or animal concentrations, such as herons, egrets and the endangered piping plover
  • Natural geologic formations and features, such as eskers and rock outcrops
  • Plant communities undergoing succession as a result of natural processes, such as old-growth forests


Scientific and Natural Areas are public lands open to recreational activities that do not disturb natural conditions, such as birdwatching, nature photography, and hiking. SNAs are established for their outstanding ecological features, which we want people to enjoy. You may see management activities such as prescribed burns and control of invasive species. Research equipment is also sometimes seen on sites.


Please read and follow these visiting guidelines as well as the specific recreational opportunities provided at individual SNAs (things you can do and rules). Working together, we can keep these unique places healthy and available for everyone to visit and enjoy.

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