With a new trail head facility for the Mississippi River Trail and stunning views of the Mississippi River valley, you'll be glad you made a visit to Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area. The trail head facility provides restrooms, drinking water, a bike fix-it station and interpretive information.
This area represents one of the largest relatively undisturbed natural areas left in the Twin Cities metro area. The goat prairie at the top of the bluff offers some of the best views of the wild Mississippi River in the Twin Cities area. It is also one of the more remote areas within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.
Because this is a state scientific and natural area, low-impact only activities are allowed. Hiking, nature study, bird watching, and photography opportunities abound.
Dry to mesic oak forests dominate the site's rugged terrain, complemented by stands of white pine on north-facing slopes, dry prairies on south- and east-facing slopes, and black ash seepage swamp at the river's edge. Numerous rare species find appropriate habitat, among them James' polanisia and butternut (both MN endangered), kitten-tails (MN threatened), and red-shouldered hawk (MN Special Concern).
The site serves research purposes as well. Studies by the Great Lakes Inventory and Monitoring Network have focused on monitoring bald eagle nestlings for DDE (a metabolite of the pesticide DDT), PCBs and mercury, environmental contaminants that can persist and even amplify over time through the food chain in wildlife populations.
It is a wonderful place from which to witness the twice-yearly migration, when tundra swans, pelicans, waterfowl, hawks and eagles make their passage along the Mississippi flyway; or to explore in spring and early summer when hepatica, blood-root, wild ginger and jack-in-the-pulpit bloom beneath the oaks. As you do, you'll be fulfilling the wish of the late Dwight Malcolm, who donated the initial parcel of land for this SNA so that future generations might enjoy the site's inestimable natural beauty.