Zebra mussels confirmed in Hand Lake in Cass County; Upper Cormorant Lake in Becker County

Credit to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for the source: http://news.dnr.state.mn.us/2019/07/11/zebra-mussels-confirmed-in-hand-lake-in-cass-county-upper-cormorant-lake-in-becker-county/

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has confirmed reports of zebra mussels in Hand Lake in Cass County and Upper Cormorant Lake in Becker County. Two smaller lakes and an unnamed wetland connected to Upper Cormorant Lake will also be listed for zebra mussels.b

A Cass County watercraft inspector found a plant with attached zebra mussels on a boat coming from Hand Lake. Divers then found a 1-inch, adult zebra mussel in Hand Lake. The DNR is conducting further analyses to better determine the distribution of zebra mussels in the lake.

DNR divers conducted a search of Upper Cormorant Lake and found seven adult zebra mussels in four locations. Nelson Lake, Middle Cormorant Lake and an unnamed wetland connected to and downstream of Upper Cormorant Lake will also be listed for zebra mussels. The wetland flows into Big Cormorant Lake, where zebra mussels were confirmed in July of 2015.

Whether or not a lake is listed as infested, Minnesota law requires boaters and anglers to:
  • Clean watercraft and trailers of aquatic plants and prohibited invasive species.
  • Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keeping them out during transport.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.
Some invasive species are small and difficult to see at the water access. To remove or kill them, take one or more of the following precautions before moving to another waterbody:
  • Spray with high-pressure water.
  • Rinse with very hot water (120 degrees for at least two minutes or 140 degrees for at least 10 seconds).
  • Dry for at least five days.

Zebra mussels can compete with native species for food and habitat, cut the feet of swimmers, reduce the performance of boat motors, and cause expensive damage to water intake pipes.

People should contact an area DNR aquatic invasive species specialist if they think they have found zebra mussels or any other invasive species that has not already been confirmed in a lake.

More information is available at mndnr.gov/ais.

Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas Program Biodiversity

Credit to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for their report: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/snap/biodiversity.html

Prairie wildflowers at Mound Prairie SNA with wooded bluffland landscape in the background

Determining the best candidates for Natural Area protection is a complex process. Natural area conservation planning focuses on areas of high biodiversity. We use the following tools, concepts and resources to evaluate and manage sites.

The value of biodiversity (the variety of life and its processes)

Minnesota’s biodiversity has evolved over millennia into complex ecosystems. A myriad of species interact with each other and environmental factors such as soils, topography, hydrology and climate within these ecosystems.

Preserving biodiversity has benefits (ecosystem services) such as:

  • Maintaining healthy, stable plant and animal populations
  • Protecting genetic diversity
  • Protecting water and soil resources
  • Filtering pollution and nutrient recycling
  • Contributing to climate stability and carbon storage
  • Recovering from catastrophic events
  • Providing sources for food, medicine and other products
  • Research, education and monitoring
  • Recreation, tourism and inspiration

In areas where biodiversity is threatened, losing species can affect the ecosystem’s ability to function properly and provide these services. Maintaining biodiversity reduces voids and the entire ecosystem maintains a higher degree of resilience.

Conservation planning for natural areas focuses on areas of high biodiversity as well as habitats for rare species.

Resilience as a strategy

Resilience is the capacity of an ecosystem to cope with disturbance. Resilience is critical to reducing climate change and fragmentation from land development. As climate change affects ecosystems they will face increasing vulnerability. An effective strategy at easing these negative impacts is to build resilience into native communities by:

  • Creating large protected areas and corridors to provide pathways for species to migrate to more suitable habitats
  • Preserving a greater variety of habitats for desirable species

The SNA program is using both strategies for resilience to maintain Minnesota’s biodiversity.

Biodiversity significance rankings

Biodiversity significance is a ranking based on the size and condition of native plant communities and how they fit in an ecological landscape. It also includes the presence or absence of rare species populations. The rankings are ‘outstanding’, ‘high’, ‘moderate’ and ‘below’. Ecologists with the Minnesota Biological Survey determine this status. This ranking is used to help prioritize Natural Area protection efforts.

Minnesota’s Ecological Classification System (ECS)

Ecological landscape classifications are used to identify, describe, and map progressively smaller areas of land with increasingly uniform ecological features. Minnesota’s Ecological Classification System (ECS) uses biotic and environmental factors, including climate, geology, topography, soils, hydrology and vegetation.

The largest units of the ECS are provinces and are defined primarily by climate. Minnesota has four provinces. Provinces are divided into 10 sections based on glacial deposits, topography and plant distributions. The 26 subsections of the ECS are further refined by local vegetation, especially trees, among other factors. Individual Scientific and Natural Areas note the subsection in which they are located. Native plant communities are a finer grading of the classification system.

Minnesota’s Native Plant Communities

Local groupings of trees, shrubs, grasses and forbs that interact with each other and their environment are called native plant communities and are characterized by the kinds and quantities of species they contain. They form recognizable units, such as oak savannas, pine forests, cattail marshes and other communities that tend to repeat over space and time.

Plant communities are subject to change. They form in response to climate and nutrients, as well as catastrophic flooding and fires. In the absence of change, they can be fairly stable over time. However they can also develop into something complete new. For example, a beaver dam can cause significant flooding and as a result, over a period of time, a new community will form in the flooded area. Places where native species have been largely replaced are no longer considered native plant communities.

Native plant communities serve as the basis for evaluating Scientific and Natural Area priorities. The Minnesota Biological Survey has identified, surveyed, and prioritized communities and rare species for research and conservation. Minnesota’s Native Plant Community Classification serves as a standard for ecologists to identify and assess communities. Some individual Scientific and Natural Areas have detail maps showing their native plant communities

Minnesota’s Rare Species

Rare species, are defined under Minnesota law as endangered, threatened, or of special concern. The DNR identifies which species are at greatest risk of disappearance. The law restricts harming those species that are designated as endangered or threatened. Natural Areas protect critical habitat for these rare species.

Adventure & Relax on a Minnesota Camping Trip

Credit to Erica Wachker of ExploreMinnesota.com: https://www.exploreminnesota.com/travel-ideas/reconnect-on-a-camping-trip/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Camping with dogs in Superior National ForestCamping in the Superior National Forest / Alyssa Hei

Relaxation, adventure, escape, and quality time with family and friends are among the many reasons why camping is a beloved Minnesota pastime. Whether you’re ready to take on the Boundary Waters or prefer the comforts of an RV, a Minnesota camping trip will surely be one to remember.

BOUNDARY WATERS & BACKPACKING

View from a boundary waters bluff

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness / Gary Hamer

 

Camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a badge of honor. There are no roads, buildings, motorboats, and definitely no cell phone service. The only mode of transportation is via canoe, with more than 1,500 miles of waterways to explore. When it’s time to set up camp, simply paddle to an open campsite and pitch your tent. Every campsite is private, so you’ll have a little piece of the wilderness all to yourselves.

Adjacent to the Boundary Waters, the Superior National Forest has a wide range of camping options, from primitive “dispersed camping” sites up to drive-in sites complete with bathhouses and electric hookups. Also in this picturesque part of the state, the Superior Hiking Trail covers nearly 300 miles of rugged terrain above the North Shore of Lake Superior, with more than 90 campsites along the way.

Lake Maria State Park camping backpacking

Backpacking at Lake Maria State Park

Another backpacking hot spot is Crosby Manitou State Park on the North Shore near Silver Bay, where challenging trails are flanked with spectacular views of waterfalls and forests. The secluded campsites are for backpackers only (though you may have to share them with moose, deer and other wildlife).

Similar camping experiences can be found in the northwest part of the state, in the Chippewa National Forest and along the North Country National Scenic Trail, which travels 800 miles across the northern half of Minnesota with multiple segments that stretch from the North Dakota border all the way to the Superior Hiking Trail.

Backpacking opportunities even exist near the Minneapolis-St. Paul area at AftonLake Maria and St. Croix state parks. Several state parks also have “walk-in” (less than half a mile) sites, with carts available to haul your gear in some cases.

CAMPGROUNDS & RV PARKS

Airstream Mille Lacs Mali Mish

Airstream at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park / Mali Mish Family

If you’re looking for a more laid back and family-friendly camping experience, Minnesota has about 500 privately operated campgrounds, most of which are on a lake or river, with sites for RVs as well as tents. Many are at resorts that also rent cabins and other indoor lodging.

These campgrounds usually feature an array of amenities, such as pools, playgrounds, game rooms, entertainment, boat rentals, Wi-Fi, and on-site laundry, groceries and restaurants. Many offer family-friendly activities like bonfires and other fun that make them a great choice for groups of all ages.

Many of Minnesota’s most scenic spots have been preserved as state parks, and most of the 75 parks and recreation areas have campgrounds with tent and RV sites. The settings range from forest to prairie; scenic hiking trails and access to a lake or river are among the highlights at these popular parks.

Camper cabin at Afton State Park

Camper cabin at Afton State Park / Kirsten Alana

Several state parks and some private campgrounds also rent camper cabins, an appealing alternative for those who don’t want to sleep in a tent. The majority have electricity and heat and can sleep up to six people. But without their own restrooms or running water, you can still say that you’re roughing it.

City and county campgrounds are another good option; in-town campgrounds are usually near shops, restaurants and attractions. If you don’t have your own camping equipment, various outfitters offer rentals of everything from tents and pop-up campers to top-of-the-line motorhomes complete with kitchens and master suites.

Five Ways to Enjoy Minnesota’s 10,000 Lakes

Credit to Explore Minnesota: https://www.exploreminnesota.com/travel-ideas/five-ways-to-enjoy-minnesotas-10000-lakes/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

When you visit a place that’s nicknamed “Land of 10,000 Lakes” (make that 11,842, to be precise), it’s pretty much required that you explore one or two of them while you’re here. In fact, many would argue you haven’t had the full Minnesota experience until you’ve gone to the lake. After all, they’re not hard to find!

As you plan your Minnesota getaway, be sure to carve out some time at a lake—whether it’s a side trip for an afternoon or the focus of your whole vacation. Here are five great ways to do so.

1. PLAY AT THE BEACH

waconia7808-Lake-Waconia-beach-scenes-600x400.jpg

Sunbathing on Lake Waconia

It’s the classic way to spend a summer day. Spread out a towel, pull out a good book, make a sandcastle with the kids, and cool off with a dip in the lake. It’s easy to include a beach day (or several!) on a Minnesota getaway. Many cities have great beaches right in town, including Big Lake, Detroit LakesFairmontSpicer and Waconia. For a refreshing dip in our biggest lake, Superior, head to Park Point Beach in Duluth. You can even beach it at lakes Maka Ska and Harriet right in the heart of Minneapolis, and several other Twin Cities-area lakes.

Numerous state parks have terrific sand beaches, including Father Hennepin on Mille Lacs Lake, Zippel Bay on Lake of the Woods, McCarthy BeachLake BemidjiMaplewood and Lake Shetek. Most of Minnesota’s resorts and campgrounds are located along lakeshores, so look for one with a swimming beach.

2. PADDLE AWAY

A woman canoeing in the Boundary Waters

Kayaking in the Boundary Waters / Jillian DeChaine

Canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding are all great ways to explore our lakes. Many state and local parks offer canoe and kayak rentals for easy lake paddling. In Minneapolis, you can rent a canoe at Bde Maka Ska and paddle through a chain of lakes via connecting canals. For more experienced paddlers, the ultimate adventure is a camping trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness; several outfitters provide equipment, provisions and tips.

Paddleboards are the newest wave of fun on the lake. Stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) are available for rent at several state parks, Minneapolis city lakes and at Bryant Lake, Fish Lake and Baker regional parks in the Minneapolis area. In the Brainerd Lakes area, MN Surf Company offers rentals and lessons.

3. GO FISH

A favorite Minnesota pastime, fishing is favored by some simply as an excuse to get out on a lake and relax. If you don’t have your own boat, many resorts offer rentals. And even better, they can hook you up with a fishing guide who can show you the ins and outs of area lakes. Fishing charters can take you out on the big waters of Lake Superior and Lake of the Woods, and fishing launches go out on larger lakes like Mille Lacs. What’s out there? Minnesota lakes serve up a variety of species: walleye, northerns, bass, muskie, various panfish and more.

4. TAKE A CRUISE

Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tour

Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tour on the St. Croix River / Lucy Hawthorne Photography

An easy and fun way to get out on a lake is to climb aboard a tour boat. In the north woods, a narrated boat trip in Itasca State Park explores the lake where the Mississippi River begins as a small stream, and tour boats explore the wilderness lakes of Voyageurs National Park. Elsewhere in the state, Gull Lake Cruises offers cruises with meals on the popular Gull Lake near Brainerd. Vista Fleet tours feature views of Duluth from the city’s harbor and Lake Superior.

Lake Minnetonka, a vast, meandering lake to the west of Minneapolis, has several tour boats: Lady of the Lakepaddlewheeler, Queen of Excelsior, and even the restored 1906 Steamboat Minnehaha. In southeast Minnesota, the Pelican Breeze plies the waters of Albert Lea Lake, and Pearl of the Lake heads onto Lake Pepin, a widening of the Mississippi River in a scenic valley of wooded bluffs.

5. SPEND THE NIGHT

Family on dock at resort in Grand Rapids

Resort stays make lake life a breeze

It can be hard to tear yourself away from the lake at the end of the day … so don’t! Find your own place at the lake for a few days, or even weeks. Reserve your stay at a lakeside resort, lodge or campground to really experience lakeside living. Watch the sun set amid vivid pinks and purples. Listen for the distinctive call of loons across the water.

After nightfall, roast marshmallows at a campfire, be amazed by zillions of stars twinkling above, see the moon rise above the lake and, if you’re lucky, catch the northern lightsdancing in the sky. It’s the perfect end to a relaxing day at the lake, with the promise of another to come.