Places We Protect

Upper Manitou Forest Preserve


Lone moose at the Glacial Ridge Project for prairie and wetland restoration in northwestern Minnesota
Lone moose Lone moose at the Glacial Ridge Project for prairie and wetland restoration in northwestern Minnesota © Greg Bengston-USDA

This unique property allows people to experience forests in their natural self-sustaining condition.



This preserve includes one of the best remaining examples of the North Shore in the Great Lakes, according to ecologists. It includes an old-growth forest of sugar maple, yellow birch, white spruce and white cedar, some estimated at more than 300 years old and requiring the length of two or more persons' arms to circle their trunks. Old-growth forests of this type and quality are reminders of the North Shore's natural heritage, and this is the largest example in private ownership.

The property also contains black ash and cedar swamps, vernal pools and important aquatic habitats such as Art Lake and the Manitou River within its boundaries.

Why TNC Selected This Site

The property is unique because people can experience forests in their natural self-sustaining condition—young trees grow in the openings created by the natural deaths of older trees. Ancient, decaying logs on the forest floor nurse seedling trees to life, securing a sustained source of autumn's brilliant colors. Forest fragmentation, fostered by second home development and unsustainable use, has changed other woodlands in the North Shore area.

Without large tracts of continuous forest, migratory songbirds and other species that represent ecosystem health are much less likely to survive. Old-growth forests are very rare now and recognized as important laboratories for study on how forests function, providing useful information to foresters and researchers.

What TNC Has Done/Is Doing

The Upper Manitou Forest Preserve represents a new approach to conservation in Northeast Minnesota. The Nature Conservancy is acquiring environmentally sensitive lands to preserve, maintain and restore habitats on these 2,000+ acres, while using its science-based, non-confrontational approach to work with other key landowners in the area. For example, Lake County and the Conservancy are working together here on joint forest management and restoration projects. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and private landowners are participating in the effort as well. Meanwhile, the Conservancy will keep its lands open for traditional community uses, including hunting. Currently, the Conservancy is compiling a forest inventory for the entire preserve. This work will produce a map of all forest types and data on several ecosystem attributes, from the heights of trees in the canopy to the type of vegetation growing on the forest floor.




Birdwatching, hiking, cross-country skiing


2,450 acres

Explore our work in this region

Backcountry skiing is a great way to visit Upper Manitou Forest. This preserve is open to public hunting. For more information on visiting this and other Minnesota preserves, check out our Preserve Visitation Guidelines.

What to See: Plants

Upper Manitou Forest is filled with wondrous examples of sugar maple, yellow birch, white spruce and white cedar trees. The property also is home to exceptionally diverse fungi and uncommon plants, including Doll's eyes, bloodroot, and Carolina spring beauty.

What to See: Animals

Many large mammals, including moose, bear, and wolf use the habitats at the Upper Manitou Forest. Seeing these animals is possible, but much more probable is spotting signs of their passing. Throughout the year a variety songbirds can be seen and heard in the forest as well. Of particular interest to birders are the spring and fall migrations when seasonal avian visitors can mean rare species sightings.