Places We Protect

Lake Johanna Esker Preserve


Aerial of Lake Johanna Esker
Aerial view of The Nature Conservancy's Lake Johanna Esker Preserve in Minnesota. © Richard Hamilton Smith

The Outdoor Heritage Fund was created to restore, protect and enhance habitat for Minnesota’s fish, game and wildlife.



Lake Johanna Esker is an approximately 806-acre property in Pope County protected by The Nature Conservancy.

The preserve is named for its esker, one of the few protected in Minnesota and accessible to the public—a 70-foot high serpentine ridge of sand and gravel deposited by a stream that flowed below the ice of a retreating glacier and now provides a commanding view of the surrounding Ordway-Glacial Lakes landscape. The landscape includes dry sand-gravel prairie, marsh, and basswood-burr oak forest.

Lake Johanna Esker is just two miles east of the Conservancy’s Ordway Prairie and one mile northwest of Moe Woods and is an important stepping stone for wildlife linking these two preserves. The property also connects grasslands and wetlands in the Little Jo Wildlife Management Area with Conservancy land to the east.

The Nature Conservancy acquired the land under its Minnesota Prairie Recovery Project, an effort to protect native prairie and savanna and restore thousands of acres of degraded prairie and prairie wetland habitat.

Funding for the property was provided by the Outdoor Heritage Fund, which was created under the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, through an appropriation by the Minnesota Legislature as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

The property is open to the public for hiking, photography and bird-watching. The Minnesota State Constitution requires all properties purchased with Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars to be open to the public taking of fish and game during the open season.As a result, hunting, trapping and fishing are allowed on this property in accordance with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Management Areas rules published in the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook.

Many of the properties purchased through the project are adjacent to private lands that are not open for public hunting. Please restrict hunting and fishing activities to only those lands clearly marked with signage showing they are “Open to Public Hunting.”

The Conservancy manages Minnesota Prairie Recovery Project properties using strategies including prescribed fire, conservation grazing, and the removal of encroaching trees and brush. These methods will benefit wildlife, preserve clean water and provide recreational opportunities.




806 acres

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SW 1/4, S 1/2 of the NW 1/4, and portions of the SE 1/4 of Section 21, and the E 1/2 of the SW 1/4, NW 1/4 of the NE 1/4, and portions of the SE 1/4 and NW 1/4 of Section 28, Lake Johanna Township, Pope County; 95°12'14"W  45°25'37"N   (45.4269444°, -095.2038889°)

Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment
Minnesota Legacy Logo Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment © 2014 Legislative Coordinating Commission