The 14,000-acre Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, located just south of Minneapolis, is one of 14 Regional Priority Urban Wildlife Refuges in the nation. The Bloomington Education and Visitor Center (pictured above) offers numerous exhibits to explore and is located just blocks from the Mall of America. Nearby, there is also access to two hiking trails. Other units near the Twin Cities include the Wilkie Unit, just east of Valleyfair, and the Louisville Swamp Unit, just south of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. In total, there are 11 refuge units interspersed with units of the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area along 70 miles of the Minnesota River.
The other visitor center, the Rapids Lake Education and Visitor Center, is located in Carver, Minnesota. It too offers two hiking trails which lead to rewarding views of the Minnesota River and the Carver Rapids. The Refuge’s trails are open year-round sunrise to sunset, although they aren’t groomed during the winter season.
- Visited: early 2000s