Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, May 17th 2014

On May 17th, we were heading to Monticello to look for a white buffalo statue that I thought was supposed to be there, at Reconciliation Park. Apparently it was the site of a mass Native American hanging, so they put up a statue to remember them. However, I was greatly confused, and after checking all the parks in Monticello, I discovered that it was actually in Mankato. Since Mankato is nowheres near Monticello, we decided to head up to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. It is a large, 30,700 acre wildlife refuge near Zimmerman, MN (around 40 miles from downtown Minneapolis). It ended up being a very interesting and beautiful place, protecting some examples of oak savanna and wetlands. There are long roads going through it and a few hiking loops you can use. A lot of the park property is restricted from entry to protect the animals, but you can still see a lot. This area has wide-open spaces. There is a wildlife loop you can drive and a hike that takes you up to the top of a hill where you can see for a long ways, the Blue Hill hiking trail. We hiked that one and took some pictures of the refuge in general, so I will just list some pictures off and comment on them.

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A rose-breasted grosbeak. This reserve is a popular spot for birders, and we saw this bird near a feeder by the park headquarters.

 

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Some of the wetlands off the road. In one of these bodies of water, we saw a beaver poking his head out.

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Drier grasslands/prairie.

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Here we are starting on the trail towards Blue Hill. It is the highest point in the park. It is actually a 5 mile trail if I remember right, but the spur that takes you to an overlook on the hill is early on the trail.

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Getting closer to the hill. It is getting green here now, and by the time I posted this, many trees were green with buds.

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One of the signs indicated that they carry out controlled burns in this area. They definitely do throughout the park. This is to create the Oak Savannah ecosystem. They exist when fires sweep through often enough to burn the undergrowth off, and keep a canopy from developing. The larger oaks survive the fire though.

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Some more of the trail.

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Not sure what kind of flower this is, but it was off the side of the trail and looked pretty.

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My mom noticed some ferns growing on the way up.

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Here we are at the top of the hill. The view out this way has some trees blocking it, but you could see pretty far, and it was all the reserve or surrounding parks from what we could tell.

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Zoomed in on a lake from the previous picture.

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We saw this chipmunk near the top of the hill. He was surprisingly tame.

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I walked over to the other side of the hill, that faces back towards where we came from. You can’t see all around you from any one spot, but the hill in general provides quite a panoramic view.

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Zoomed in on the trees below. I don’t know exactly what Oak Savannah should look like because it is kinda rare in the Midwest now, but I think it is something like this.

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We took a different way back down the hill that essentially went straight down the front of it.

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We are lower on the hill now, but you can still see for a long ways and take in how large this reserve is.

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The witness post was pointing out this survey marker.

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While I still don’t quite understand what they are used for today, these survey markers are reference points for a central ‘station’ (another disk like this with a triangle on it instead of an arrow). These reference points have arrows on them that point to the station-disk. They were used for very precise measurements, and are checked on occasionally to remeasure and make sure they are still reachable and in good condition.

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After we finished the hike, we noticed an excellent sun halo. The large rainbow ring around the sun is the halo. The extra red flares and rainbows near the sun are part of the lens flare.

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My mom took both of these pictures. It was even more vibrant in person. We actually see very light examples of these occasionally, but this was one of the most impressive ones in person that I have seen.

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This last picture was taken near the Wildlife Loop that you are supposed to drive. There is a platform at the beginning of it where they have these scopes you can look through, and there are eagles nests in the nearby trees that you can look at with them.

After looking at that platform, we left. There is still a lot you could do in that Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. We did not hike the whole Blue Hill trail, hike the other hiking trail in the park, or drive the Wildlife Loop. It makes a good trip for anyone around the Twin Cities, and we weren’t even out very late just seeing what we saw. We will probably come back some time to find the station-disk from the survey marker. It turns out there is a whole community alongside geocaching that hunts these markers, but we just want to find that one in particular. Thanks for reading!

 

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