Bird Watching at Sherburne Wildlife Refuge
Considering it is located only 50 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge is an exceptionally large sweep of wild land, encompassing 30,000 acres of woodland, prairie, oak savanna, and wetlands. It’s one of the best places in Minnesota to reliably watch sandhill cranes, which stage in and around the refuge by the thousands each October. Numbers usually peak about the third week of the month. The parking lot on County Road 70, on the northern edge of the refuge, provides good viewing at dawn and dusk, when flights of up to 20 cranes are leaving or returning to their nighttime roosts.
You might also spot other large birds, including bald eagles, trumpeter swans, ducks, wild turkeys, and Canada geese. Take time to follow the 7.3-mile Prairie’s Edge Wildlife Drive, stopping often and scanning the landscape with binoculars. (Download maps at fws.gov/midwest/sherburne). Other options for spotting wildlife are hiking the Mahnomen Trail (about three miles) and Blue Hill Trail (about five miles). You might catch a glimpse of deer, black bears, and even wolves.