Chippewa Plains & Pine Moraine-Outwash Plains

The information and resources on this webpage are designed to help woodland landowners in north-central Minnesota. The Chippewa Plains and Pine Moraine-Outwash Plains (CP-PMOP) area spans all or parts of Aitkin, Becker, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, Mahnomen, Morrison, Ottertail, Polk, Todd, and Wadena counties.

Woodlands in this area

This area is home to thousands of lakes, vast stretches of northern forest, lush wetlands, diverse wildlife, unique plants, and the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Area covered by handbook

Area covered by handbook

Click to enlarge


North-central Minnesota is home to a thousands of wildlife species. Learning about the animals that live in your woods is a great way to connect to the habitat. Get to know your critters and keep on the lookout when you walk your property. Minnesota has about 350 species in greatest conservation need that are either rare, declining, or threatened. Examples in your area include common loons, red-shouldered hawks, northern goshawks, northern long-eared bats, Canada lynx, American badgers, smooth green snakes, eastern hog-nosed snakes, and a species of caddisfly (chilostigma itascae).

Minnesota Biological Survey - collects data on rare plants and animals, native plant communities, and landscapes. Use it to find out about species in your county.

Pollinators - learn about what you can do to help these important insects and birds.


The list of plants for this area is exhausting. From small flowers, to ferns, to towering pines, it would be impossible to name them all! Getting familiar with the common native trees in your area is a great way to start. Find the right tree for your property.

Wood lot Tree Planting and Care - learn about native landscaping, what trees to plant, where to find native tree stock, and what to know before you plant.

Native Plant Communities

To more easily keep track of all the plants, ecologists use native plant communities, which are groups of native plants that interact with each other and with their environment. These groups of native plant species form recognizable units, such as oak savannas, pine forests, or marshes, that tend to repeat over space and time. The native plant communities tie into the ecological classification system that describes a given landscape area of the state. North-central Minnesota is located in the Laurentian Mixed Forest and there are a wide variety of native plant communities found within the Chippewa Plains and Pine Moraines—Outwash Plains subsections.

North-Central Minnesota Native Plant Community Spotlights:

Central Dry-Mesic Pine-Hardwood Forest

Central Dry Pine Woodland

Central Dry-Mesic Oak Aspen Forest


Habitat Spotlight:

Jack Pine

Invasive Species

Invasive species are plants, animals, and insects that are not native to Minnesota and cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. There are many things you can do to reduce invasive species on your land.

Intruder Alert!
Garlic Mustard
Emerald Ash Borer - (not yet found in north-central Minnesota)

Geology and Landscape

There are 4.6 million acres of land in the Chippewa Plains and Pine Moraines—Outwash Plains. Flat to gently rolling plains are covered by glacial deposits called glacial drift, till, or moraines. Soils in this region range from sand to clay. The outwash plains formed by melting glaciers are especially sandy. The area is home to Lake the headwaters of the Mississippi River and glacier formed lakes like Leech Lake, Lake Winnibigoshish, and Cass. Despite all the water, the region receives only 23 to 27 inches of rain per year.

Before European settlement, much of the area was covered by aspen, birch, and Minnesota's three native pine species: jack, red, and eastern white. Fire frequently disturbed the landscape. Areas that did not burn contained pockets of northern red oak, sugar maple, and basswood or swampy lowland areas with black spruce, black ash, tamarack, and northern white-cedar.

Today, agriculture approximately 13 percent of the land is used for crops (mainly corn and potatoes) or pasture. Aspen has increased in forests and is used to make paper, biomass, and other products. Tourism and recreation are major industries in the region as well, with the forests and lakes attracting second-home owners and tens of thousands of visitors every summer.

Ecological Classification System

While north-central Minnesota is in the coniferous forest biome (or Laurentian Mixed Forest), we use the Ecological Classification System (ECS) to focus landscape information on a more local level. The ECS divides the landscape into progressively smaller areas based on similarities and differences in climate, geology, natural features, and plants. This webpage focuses on two ECS subsections: the Chippewa Plains and Pine Moraines—Outwash Plains, which both contain a combination of deciduous and coniferous trees.

Landscape Management Plans

A detailed plan created by the DNR for the Northern Minnesota Drift and Lake Plains Section helps land managers put their land in context with state land management goals for the area. In addition, the Minnesota Forest Resources Council has created a North Central Landscape Management Plan to guide any landowners toward common management goals for sustainable forests, clean water, productive forests, and healthy wildlife habitat.


A watershed is the total area of land surrounding a body of water (such as a lake, river, or stream) that drains water into that body. Small watersheds surrounding creeks and streams join to create larger watersheds surrounding major rivers. North-central Minnesota is located along a great divide in North American water flow. Depending on your land's exact location, your actions can affect the quality of water that will flow either into Hudson Bay or into the Gulf of Mexico.

What watersheds are and why they are important

Learn more about your watershed


CP-PMOP book cover

Woodlands of Minnesota Handbook—CP-PMOP - is both a reference and workbook. It contains information on the past and present condition of land in the regions, insight into some of the biggest challenges woodland owners face here, and tips for making and accomplishing goals for your woods.



Workbook only

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