A remarkable landscape feature of the Border Country - the Rove Slate Hills - are home to a unique assemblage of arctic and alpine plants. The Cliffs preserve, named for its prominent Rove Slate formation perched over South Fowl Lake where it empties into the Pigeon River, includes 100 acres and a mile of frontage on both the river and the lake. The preserve joins the border with Ontario across from one of the famed Voyageur portage trails. The preserve offers spectacular views of South Fowl Lake, the Pigeon River valley, and "mountains" of the border country.The Border Route Hiking Trail crosses the property.
Due north of Hovland, Minnesota along the Minnesota/Ontario border where the Pigeon River leaves South Fowl Lake
The Nature Conservancy’s Great Lakes Ecoregional plan identified the Pigeon River watershed as an important contributor to the natural diversity unique to the Great Lakes. As one of the few major tributaries to Lake Superior without any commercial or industrial development, the Pigeon holds promise for conserving the region’s native river ecosystems. Lakeshore, especially that which offers unparalleled views such as the Pigeon River Cliffs property, is critically threatened by development of large second homes.
What The Conservancy has done/is doing
The Nature Conservancy secured ownership of the property at the end of 2002. Collaborative management planning for the Pigeon River Watershed is underway with several partners, including the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Grand Portage Band of Ojibwe, and the National Park Service. In 2002, The Conservancy acquired 750 acres on the Ontario side of the river near Middle Falls. This property encompasses essentially the last unprotected stretch on the Canadian side of the river from Quetico Provincial Park to Lake Superior. The Conservancy is working with Ontario Parks to include this property in Pigeon River Provincial Park.
What to See: Plants
The Pigeon River Country is home to two unique associations of plants that are dysjunct from their home ranges. Alpine plants from the Rocky Mountains and the White Mountains of New Hampshire are joined by arctic plants from near Hudson Bay. Please stay on the Border Route Trail to avoid damage to these sensitive plant communities.
What to See: Animals
Mammal highlights from the Northern coniferous forest include moose, wolves, black bear, pine marten, fisher, lynx and bobcat. There are many species of warblers, sparrows, waterfowl, and raptors that nest or migrate through the border country. Bald eagles are a common sight over the preserve. Some year round avian residents include the spruce grouse, Northern goshawk, raven, boreal chickadee, gray jay, red crossbill, and white winged crossbill.
This preserve is open to public hunting. For more information on visiting this and other Minnesota preserves check out our Preserve Visitation Guidelines.
From Hovland MN, take County Road 16 (Arrowhead Trail) north approximately 15 miles to South Fowl Road. Turn right on South Fowl Road and travel approximately 1-½ miles to where the road ends. Park here and walk north on the narrow road for a little more than ¼ mile. Look for the border route trail heading east (right). Follow the Border Route trail up and along the cliffs returning the way you came.