View of sand prairie wildflowers at Weaver Dunes Scientific and Natural Area, near Kellogg, in Minnesota’s Wabasha County
Weaver Dunes Scientific and Natural Area View of sand prairie wildflowers at Weaver Dunes Scientific and Natural Area, near Kellogg, in Minnesota’s Wabasha County © Michelle Kalantari/The Nature Conservancy

Places We Protect

Minnesota

Weaver Dunes Scientific and Natural Area

Weaver Dunes Preserve is on a sand terrace formed by the Mississippi, Chippewa, and Zumbro Rivers.

Visitors to Weaver Dunes will be captivated by the majestic sand dunes themselves, some of which reach a height of 30 feet. Another highlight is the variety of vegetation on the site. With the arrival of fall, the foliage of the sand prairie and flood plain forests are spectacular. Look for the Blanding's turtles on their migration routes in June and late August; migrating waterfowl and raptors are numerous at Weaver Dunes.

Location
Wabasha County, near Kellogg

Size
819 acres

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
The Conservancy was drawn to Weaver Dunes by the opportunity to protect critical habitat used by Blanding's turtles. In fact, the American Museum of Natural History calls this dune region the most important place in the United States for Blanding's turtles because of the wide range in age and size of the turtle population. Conservation targets at Weaver Dunes also include ground nesting grassland birds and the sand prairie they depend on. 

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The Nature Conservancy acquired the Weaver Dunes Preserve in 1980 from John and Elizabeth Lamey. Two years later, the Kellogg Weaver Dunes Scientific and Natural Area was established a half-mile north of the preserve by the Department of Natural Resources. Other protected land nearby includes the McCarthy Lake Wildlife Management Area and the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

Weaver Dunes benefits greatly from volunteers. Most of the non-native pines have recently been removed from the preserve, and volunteers have collected seeds from the prairie to spread over the bare areas where the trees once stood. To maintain the prairie, the preserve has been divided into several units, each of which is burned every four years or so by the volunteer burn crew. Volunteers have also cut many junipers and other woody species that have invaded the prairie. 

Over the years, many of the rare species on the preserve have been the subjects of research and monitoring to learn more about their ecology and methods of protecting them.

What to See: Plants
The preserve is one of the few places where the rough-seeded fameflower, a State-listed endangered species, is found. It blooms only three hours a day in mid-summer, beginning around 4:30 PM. Little bluestem and junegrass are the most abundant grasses. Many species of special concern in Minnesota are found on the preserve, including sea-beach needlegrass, purple sand-grass, beach-heather, sand milkweed, wild indigo, goat's rue, and cliff goldenrod. While wandering, notice how the changing topography influences the plant species found. 

What to See: Animals
Every June, female Blanding's turtles, a species listed as threatened by the State of Minnesota, travel from wetland breeding grounds to the preserve's sand prairie areas to lay their eggs. The eggs hatch in late August, and the hatchlings return to the wetlands. These migrations are hazardous for the turtles because they must cross roads and highways on their journey. Many are killed inadvertently by motorists. To warn drivers, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has erected "Rare Turtle Crossing" signs along the roads.

Several butterflies breed on the preserve, including the Ottoe skipper (a threatened species) and the regal fritillary (a species of special concern). The plains pocket mouse and gopher snake (or bull snake) are also species of special concern that are found at Weaver Dunes. Birds sighted at the preserve include the loggerhead shrike (a threatened species), western meadowlark, peregrine falcon, and Bell's vireo, and in winter, large numbers of bald eagles.

For more information on visiting this and other Minnesota preserves, check out our Preserve Visitation Guidelines.