Once grazed by roaming bison and elk, Leif Mountain preserve is a dry gravel hill prairie that is currently grazed with cattle. Grazing allows natural grasses to flourish while stressing non-native cool grasses.
Pope County, west central Minnesota
One of the first wild flowers to bloom in the spring is the Pasque flower, a beautiful purple bell flower with bright yellow anthers. Visitors can also enjoy the sights of purple coneflower, ground plum, needle grass, wild onion, prairie cord grass, and prairie smoke.
Regal fritillary butterfly (species of special concern) can be found in Leif Mountain preserve. Declining species of lesser and greater scaup migrate late October prior to ice-up. In addition, visitors can enjoy the sight of local nesting sandhill cranes. As part of a grazing demonstration, 50 cow/calf pairs alternate four different pastures in the preserve to suppress non-native grasses and allow native grasses to flourish.
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
Leif Mountain preserve is grassland that provides vital eco-services: preventing erosion, purifying water, and absorbing carbon. Grasslands are the most threatened ecosystem in the United States. The purchase of this 800-acre tract increases the size of protected land in this region to 3,000 acres. Leif Mountain and other properties in the represent one of the best opportunities in Minnesota to preserve a large prairie landscape.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The focus of this preserve is to restore the native prairie. The Conservancy is doing this through active grazing, prescribed burns, restoring oak savanna, monitoring and removing invasive species, and eliminating invasive woody vegetation in over 400 acres.
For more information on visiting this and other Minnesota preserves, check out our Preserve Visitation Guidelines.
From Paynesville, take State Highway 55 west to Belgrade.
From Belgrade, take County Road 19 west 7 miles to County Road 18. Follow County Road 18 south (County Road 18 turns into County Road 1 for 3 miles). Take a right (going west) on 80th Street NW.
Leif Mountain is located on the right side of 80th Street NW. Look for the preserve sign.