Moe Woods

The prairie/forest transition is clearly illustrated at this preserve.  Tall grasses blend into oak savanna at the ecological interface.  Beyond, visitors are led into a maple-basswood forest with a fully intact canopy, a vital habitat for forest song birds.

Two separate parcels in Pope and Kandiyohi Counties

312 acres

A large patch of forest persists deep within the transition zone between forest and prairie.  It is classified as a maple-basswood forest, but sugar maples, which usually dominate both the canopy and the understory of these forests, are nearly absent.  American basswood is the dominant tree species.  American elm is also commonly found here, while ironwood is a common understory tree.  Oaks, black cherries, and green ash are scattered throughout the forest.  Herbaceous species include ferns, wild leeks, red baneberry, showy orchis, and yellow lady's slipper.

This preserve is home to various forest song birds (species vary by season). 

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site  
Moe Woods represents a significant remnant of a mesic hardwood forest surrounded by a prairie.  Very few deciduous forest sites of this size remain in this portion of the state. 

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The Nature Conservancy purchased 120 disparate acres of the forest in 1971 from the Moe family, who purchased it from the government in the 1860s.  Since then, TNC has purchased another 48 acres of adjacent properties, creating a preserve in two parcels: 120 acres in the north and 48 in the south.  All of the forest has been logged and grazed at some point.  Fifteen landowners have registered 406 acres with The Nature Conservancy, while promising not to damage or develop the forested acres surrounding the preserve.

Moe Woods Preserve has no trails, and its boundaries are not completely marked.  Do not attempt to visit the preserve unless you have a topographical map (or aerial photo or both), a compass, and orienteering experience.  Be careful not to trespass on adjacent private land.  There is no public access to the southern portion of the preserve because it is completely surrounded by private land.  For more information on visiting this and other Minnesota preserves, check out our Preserve Visitation Guidelines.


From Brooten:

  • Travel west on Pope County Highway 8 for three miles, then south for a half mile after the road bends.
  • At this point County 8 turns west again.  Rather than follow County 8, continue south on Pope County 37 for 4.0 miles.
  • At this point County 37 turns east.  At the corner, follow a gravel township road to the south for 0.25 mile, then west for about a half mile after it bends.
  • At this point a degraded dirt road turns to the south, marked by a small State Wildlife Management Area sign.  Park here, on the side of the township road, unless you have a high-suspension vehicle.  The degraded road dead-ends into a grassy parking lot for the Little Jo WMA.
  • A rough track leads east out of the parking lot through tall grass and sumac and into a patch of forest where the trail is clearer.  The track emerges from the forest into another field, and then through an aspen grove.  Head toward the eastern side of Crook Lake. 
  • The trail enters the forest about 50 feet uphill from the lake.  After crossing an old barbed-wire fence, head east (left) on a trail toward Round Lake, which is visible through the trees.  
  • Follow an overgrown trail to the south that climbs onto the high ground between the two lakes and continue.  
  • Pass an open swamp on the right and take a trail that leaves to the north (left) toward Round Lake.  (Continuing on the first trail leads onto private property.)  
  • Follow the new trail as it curves along the ridge above the lake.  The trail ends quickly, but continuing along the ridge leads into the northwest corner of Moe Woods Preserve and provides beautiful views of Round Lake.

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