Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge
17076 - 293rd Avenue
Zimmerman, MN 55398
Phone (612) 389-3323
Fax (612) 389-3493
Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge is located in Sherburne County, Minnesota, just north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. It is located on the prairie-hardwood forest tension zone and has both prairie and oak savannah habitats dependent on fire.
The refuge consists of wetlands and equal parts of savannah and tall grass prairie. Vegetation includes bit and little bluestem, Indiangrass and red and bur oak.
Highlighted wildlife species using the area and regularly seen are: bald eagle, greater sandhill crane, pileated woodpecker, wood duck, and white-tailed deer. Other less common species are: timber wolf, peregrine falcon, osprey, great egret, Blanding's turtle, eastern hognose and gopher snakes, coyotes, and river otter.
The climate is tropical in July to tundra-like in January.
Recreational opportunities in this area include: educational programs, wildlife observation, hiking trails, auto tour route, non-motorized boating, hunting, and fishing.
Accessibility: The National Wildlife Refuge System is working to ensure that facilities and programs are accessible to visitors. Please contact the refuge office for information about accessibility at this unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Wildlife observation, sightseeing, fishing and hunting are all popular uses of the refuge. A 7.3-mile wildlife drive gives visitors access to grassland, wetland and woodland habitats. Two observation decks with telescopes provide views of wetland impoundments that often contain an array of ducks, geese, and other waterbirds. Several bald eagle pairs have established nests near the drive and are often seen in the area. Sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans and loons nest within the refuge and may be heard or seen from the drive, especially on early spring mornings or evenings. Herons, egrets, cormorants, white pelicans, and shorebirds also frequent refuge impoundments and are visible from the drive. Visitors to the drive also have the opportunity to walk the half-mile Prairie Trail for a closer look at summer-blooming wildflowers such as lupine, penstamen, hyssop and prairie clover, and native grasses such as big and little bluestem, Indiangrass and switchggrass. Near the end of the drive, the half-mile Woodland Trail provides an opportunity to view early spring woodland flowers and migratory and resident songbirds. The wildlife drive is open during daylight hours from mid-April through October. The entrance to the drive is on County Road 5, two miles south of County Road 9 or two miles north of Orrock.
The refuge also offers two scenic hiking trails, the Mahnomen and Blue Hill, both located on County Road 9. The 3-mile Mahnomen Trail passes through woodland and grassland habitats and is designed with three loops to let visitors choose their walking distance. The 4.5-mile Blue Hill Trail provides views of woodland and grassland habitats and also Buck Lake. A spur trail will take hikers to an observation deck on top of Blue Hill for a panoramic view of the refuge. The base of Blue Hill is an especially good area for finding migratory songbirds during May.
Hunting for big game, waterfowl and small game is available on limited portions of the refuge in accordance with applicable Federal and Minnesota State laws. Blinds for disabled hunters are available by reservation during waterfowl and firearms deer seasons. Consult the refuge hunting leaflet for current regulations and a map showing open areas.
Fishing is permitted on the St. Francis River at six points where the St. Francis crosses county roads. State regulations apply. Visitation averages 100,000 per year. There are three million people living within an hour's drive of the refuge.
The primary focus is to maintain and restore native habitats including prairie openings, oak savannah and wetlands. Water management involves various water depths in 23 impoundments fed by the St. Francis River. Drawdowns for bald eagles, wading and shore birds, cranes and waterfowl are annual objectives.
Prescribed burning is used to maintain fire-dependent prairie and oak savannah habitat. An average of 4,000 acres is burned each April-May to perpetuate native species and to retard woody invasion of oak openings.
Exotic tree species such as Siberian elm and black locust are mechanically and chemically treated to control their invasive habits. Biological control of purple loosestrife and leafy spurge is also accomplished on a large scale.
Graduate students regularly use the refuge for various biological studies. Regular censuses are conducted to monitor bird and deer numbers.
An active private lands program extends into an eight-county area mainly to restore wetlands and to reseed native plants. Fifty private tracts are present with wetland easements in these counties.
Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge is located in east central Minnesota approximately 50 miles northwest of Minneapolis or 30 miles southeast of St. Cloud.
From Minneapolis, take Interstate 94 west to Highway 101 at Rogers, then Highway 169 north past Zimmerman 4 miles to County Road 9. Go west on County 9 four miles to the refuge entrance and one additional mile to the refuge office.
From St. Cloud, take Highway 23 north to Highway 95, then east on Highway 95 approximately 15 miles. After the sign for Sherburne Refuge take the first right, which is Mille Lacs County Road 7. Go south on County 7 four miles to the refuge entrance then three more miles to County 9. Go east 2.5 miles on County 9 to the refuge office.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication