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330. Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, St. Paul, Minnesota

This unit of the National Park Service stretches along 72 miles of the river, attracting birds, dragonflies, & other wildlife.

The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is a unit of the National Park Service that covers 54,000 acres alongside the Mississippi from the suburb Ramsey southeast through the Twin Cities and on past the city of Hastings. You can find lots of birds, dragonflies, reptiles, mammals, and other wildlife along the 72-mile stretch of the river.

You can access the recreation area from a few dozen regional and state parks, nature sanctuaries, dams, and other properties. It also has two excellent visitor centers, one in Minneapolis and another in St. Paul. I recommend starting at the Mississippi River Visitor Center, which is located in the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul. It has interactive exhibits, and you can pick up maps and get tips on recent notable bird sightings from a park ranger.

One access point that I enjoy is Crosby Farm Regional Park, which is mostly a floodplain forest with more than 6 miles of paved trails. On a recent visit, I saw Yellow Warblers, Great Blue Herons, and other species that nest along the river.

330. Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, St. Paul, Minnesota

Directions

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
44°56’34.19″N 93°5’53.02″W

Habitat

Prairie, forest, river, floodplains.

Terrain

Trails range from easy and flat to more demanding and steeper. Paved roads. Some locations within the recreation area wheelchair-accessible.

Birds

Spring through fall: Red-winged Blackbird, Mourning Dove, Killdeer, Eastern Bluebird, American Coot, Double-crested Cormorant, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Wood Duck, Great Egret, Baltimore Oriole, Brown Thrasher, Spotted Sandpiper, Bank and Tree Swallows, Tundra Swan, Yellow Warbler. Winter: Northern Flicker, Herring Gull. Year-round: Northern Cardinal, Black-capped Chickadee, American Crow, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Canada Goose, Red-tailed Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Ring-necked Pheasant, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.

When to go

Year-round.

Amenities

Visitor center open daily 9-5, closed Mondays, free admission, with modern wheelchair access and ramps. Ranger tours, field trips, and other events available through Mississippi Park Connection, which is MNRR’s non-profit partner.

Access

Partnership park that encompasses federal, state, regional, and local public lands. Open daily year-round, though some properties may close on holidays. Hours vary by property. Free admission, but some of the partner parks, museums, and historical sites within the complex have admission fees. Check each park for more information, fees, and hours.

Tips

Stay on trails and designated overlooks. Do not enter closed-off areas. Never walk on the ice-covered river, and be careful around the edge of bluffs. Bring water, snacks, hat, rain gear, layered clothing, sunscreen, sunglasses, backpack, sturdy hiking shoes, binoculars, walking stick.

For more info

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

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Caroline Blaha-Black

Caroline Blaha-Black is a former Elm Fork Master Naturalist, a freelance writer and book author. She also volunteers at a local wildlife rescue.

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