Prairie Wetlands Learning Center: Fergus Falls MN
Protecting One of Minnesota's Most Biodiverse Landscapes: Along the Minnesota prairie, where the wetlands and tallgrass meet the northern forest, the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls, MN preserves a unique habitat that hosts one of the state’s greatest concentrations of biodiversity.
The center marks the transition of Minnesota’s most well-known habitats – the prairie and the northern forest. As a result, its home to an abundance of wildlife and plants, including 293 bird species that have been observed and 170 species that nest in the area. In fact, more than 50 percent of the ducks hatched in North America have nested here.
Before the first settlers arrived, the area was a natural paradise. Waterfowl, bison, whooping cranes and prairie chickens thrived in the region. The land was dotted with “prairie potholes” – small wetland areas created when the glaciers carved the land as they formed and receded.
As farms sprung up on the rich land, much of the natural prairie was lost, and wetlands were drained. The natural habitat and the hundreds of species that relied on it were at risk.
The Fergus Falls Wetland Management District was established to protect the land. Working with area landowners, the district restores and protects grass and wetlands. Today, more than 44,000 acres have been set aside by the federal government as Waterfowl Production Areas, to protect these vital waterfowl nesting areas.
The area is also home to other birds, like pheasants and grassland songbirds, and over 50 pairs of bald eagles that nest there. Additionally there are 40 species of mammals and 25 species of reptiles and amphibians that also inhabit the area.
Today, visitors can tour the 330 acres of the district that form the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center. More than 3.5 miles of trails wind through earthy reeds, whispering grasses and colorful flowers that dot the landscape at the Center. A one-eighth mile interpretive trail provides views of the area’s diversity.
A visitor center at the site includes exhibits on the natural habitat, plus a store and classrooms. Classes and residential learning programs teach participants about the region and steps taken to protect it for future generations.
The center provides a unique location to see the Minnesota seasons change and glimpse the diverse wildlife that has been a part of the land for thousands of years.
If You Go:
The Prairie Wetlands Learning Center is open all year long, with more than 3.5 miles of trails to enjoy in the summer and miles of ski trails to enjoy in the winter. Visit in the spring and fall to watch the seasonal migration.
Watch for special events, including wildflower viewing, monarch butterfly tagging, nature photography workshops and birding events.
The center is located on Hwy 210, one mile east of interstate 94.
While You’re There:
Visit nearby Fergus Falls, MN. Head downtown for dining and live shows at the Historic Fergus Theatre. A Center for the Arts hosts live music, dance, theatre, films and visual art exhibitions.
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