Visitors to the top of the bluff on the west side of the preserve will not only be rewarded with a fine view of the Minnesota River Valley, but will also find themselves next to an American Indian burial mound. Ottawa Bluffs can be a great place to see the pasque flower, the first prairie flower of the spring. These beauties can be found on the south-facing slopes in the prairie opening, especially toward the tops of the rises. Look for them in early April, as soon as the ground starts thawing.
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
Oak savannas are one of the most endangered ecological communities in Minnesota.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
Ottawa Bluffs was purchased by the Conservancy in 1975 to protect a remnant of the Minnesota River bluffs. Because of the extensive invasion by woody vegetation, a concerted effort is underway to restore the site to its pre-settlement conditions. While the prairie openings have been managed by prescribed fire since the Conservancy acquired the site, the frequency and intensity of these burns has been insufficient to set back this encroachment.
To remedy this, volunteers have been working at Ottawa Bluffs to remove trees and brush from selected areas, and to bring the role of fire back to the woody areas of the preserve. This work consists mostly of cutting eastern red cedar and European buckthorn. Much of this work is done during the winter, when cool temperatures are conducive to physical labor and when the cuttings can be safely disposed of by burning. Additionally, the volunteers harvest prairie seeds from the remnants to plant in the cleared areas, in order to facilitate the return of the savanna and the prairie. The use of these techniques is helping to restore Ottawa Bluffs' oak savanna and the diversity of species that live here.