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Where the mighty Mississippi begins, and adventure never ends...


Serious and amateur birders will find a birding paradise in the Park Rapids Lakes Area. The all-American bald eagle and graceful trumpeter swan have made a comeback here and it is very likely you will see at least one in your travels. Great blue herons and hummingbirds inhabit the landscape. As the terrain changes from marshes to forest lands to prairies, approximately 250 species are commonly sighted. Checklists and naturalist programs about birds are available at some locations.

Audubon Great River Birding Trail, near the source of the Mississippi River. From Itasca State Park, go north on US Hwy 71 to Hubbard County 9, then west about 4 miles to County 29 and north 1/2 mile to the Neilson Spearhead Center. The center is a 460-acre nature preserve operated by Audubon with open water great for viewing waterfowl. For information call (218)444-8672 or see: http://www.greatriverbirding.org/index2.php or http://www.greatriverbirding.org/site/?site=1304

Heartland State Trail, a 49-mile multiple use, paved trail between Park Rapids and Cass Lake. The Heartland Trail was one of the first rail-to-trail projects in the country, an asphalt ribbon laid on a level abandoned railroad grade. Trail users pass numerous lakes, rivers and streams. The trail skirts northern hardwood forests and stands of jack, red and white pine, as well as spruce firs. The occasional majestic white pine towers overhead and wildflowers color the trail sides. Riders and hikers may see many varieties of birds along the trail from bluebirds to bald eagles. Trail side parks are located at Park Rapids, Dorset, Nevis, Akeley and Walker. For more information see: www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/heartland/index.html

Lake Country Scenic Byway, state Hwy 34 between Walker and Detroit Lakes and US Hwy 71 between Park Rapids and Itasca State Park. The 88-mile byway is a premier area for birding and wildlife observation. In fact, this is one of Minnesota's best areas for bird watching enthusiasts. It's possible to view over 250 species of birds in the byway region. Numerous birding refuges and trails offer excellent viewing and habitat opportunities. Hiking trails offer premier bird watching. There are over 11 trails specially geared to bird watching. http://www.lakecountryscenicbyway.com/overview/flash.htm

Paul Bunyan State Forest/Gulch Lakes Area, north of Nevis and Akeley. The forest provides a favorable environment for viewing birds and wildlife. Steep hillsides surrounding small lakes harbor bald eagles, osprey, black bears, gray wolves, white-tailed deer, beavers, hooded mergansers and common loon. A great blue heron rookery can be seen from state Hwy. 64 north of Akeley. For more information see:http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_forests/index.html

Pine to Prairie Birding Trail, more than 200 miles in length with 45 sites to view birds, including sites in the Detroit Lakes area. 275 species may be seen along Minnesota's first birding trail, which recently became part of North America's first official International Birding Trail as it stretches north into Manitoba. For more information see: http://www.mnbirdtrail.com

Tamarac Wildlife Refuge, 35704 Co. Hwy 26, Rochert, 24 miles west of Park Rapids on Hwy 34 and north on County 26.The 43,000-acre refuge provides natural habitat for more than 250 species of birds. This impressive diversity of species is attributed to the refuge's location in an area of transition where the tall grass prairie meets the edges of both northern hardwood and boreal forest eco-systems. Birds to see: common loon, trumpeter swan, wood duck, bald eagle, red shouldered and broad-winged hawks, peregrine falcon, ruffed grouse, American woodcock, sedge and marsh wrens. View 25 species of warbler in mid-May. The refuge hosts the Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds in May. For more information call (218)847-2641 or see: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/tamarac