Cottonwood River Prairie SNA


Area and County

    Brown County
    Southwest Minnesota

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347 acres


Detail map (MN DNR)


 Printable Maps with GPS coordinates




Prairie Champion Unit

Prairie Sky Unit   Prairie Champion Unit

Railroad Prairie Unit


Prairie Sky Unit

Prairie Sky Unit   Prairie Sky Unit

Prairie Champion Unit
N44 12.141, W95 06.171

Prairie Sky Unit, Railroad Prairie
N44 11.664, W95 03.576

Hiking Trails

No maintained trails


No hunting

Ecological Classification Province  

Prairie Parkland Province

Ecological Classification

North Central Glaciated Plains


Minnesota River Prairie

Land Type Association(s)

Renville Till Plain

Native Plant Communities1

Dry Sand - Gravel Prairie (Southern)

Mesic Prairie (Southern)

Prairie Wetland Complex

Wet Prairie (Southern)

Ownership Minnesota DNR logo        

Minnesota DNR


360° View
The highest point on the Prairie Sky Unit is near the northeast corner of the unit. From here, a visitor is treated to a spectacular 360° view and can see for at least a mile in every direction. The GPS coordinates are N44 11.994, W95 3.978.









Visitor Photos

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Prairie Champion Unit


  Prairie Champion Unit   Prairie Champion Unit
  Prairie Champion Unit    

Interpretive Sign

  Prairie Champion Unit    

Wood Routed Sign

  Prairie Champion Unit    

Prairie Wetland Complex

  Prairie Champion Unit   Prairie Champion Unit

Dry Sand - Gravel Prairie (Southern)

  Prairie Champion Unit   Prairie Champion Unit

Railroad Prairie Unit


  Railroad Prairie   Railroad Prairie

Prairie Sky Unit


  Prairie Sky Unit   Prairie Sky Unit

Interpretive Sign

  Prairie Sky Unit    

Mound Creek

  Prairie Sky Unit    

Prairie Reconstruction

  Prairie Sky Unit   Prairie Sky Unit

Dry Sand - Gravel Prairie (Southern)

  Prairie Sky Unit   Prairie Sky Unit
  Prairie Sky Unit   Prairie Sky Unit

View from the Top

  Prairie Sky Unit





  Cottonwood River Prairie SNA
  Cottonwood River Prairie SNA  

The abandoned rail line at the heart of this SNA exemplifies the long-standing association between prairie conservation and railroad corridors, which provide accidental refuge for native species on the uncultivated rights of way (along with an occasional spark-generated revitalizing fire).





Visitor Videos

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Other Videos

  First Snow
Dale Bohlke

The first snow falling on the prairie is a quiet, peaceful, and beautiful event. The warm autumn colors will gradually be replaced with white and then the winds will return. In the meantime a stillness descends on the prairie.

Relaxing Piano Music" Kevin MacLeod (

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

  At the Rock
Dale Bohlke

During the month of June I set a camera trap at a small puddle in some isolated rocks on Cottonwood Prairie SNA. I was hoping to get some mice or small rodents so the colorful male ring neck pheasant was a surprise. The only night visitor was a passing raccoon. Sound during the camera trap video was recorded live. Still images from an iPhone6. Editing in Final Cut.

  Prairie Clouds
Dale Bohlke

High clouds and warm light made this evening a time-lapse photographer's dream. Two cameras were used to record the drama. Recorded at Cottonwood River Prairie SNA in Minnesota.

Music from audio

  Prairie Bush Clover
Adam Arvidson

Published on Apr 5, 2012

Prairie Bush Clover (Lespedeza leptostachya) at Cottonwood River Scientific and Natural Area in Minnesota, August, 2010.





Visitor Observations

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northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens)

==================== 6/21/2019 ====================


northern leopard frog


Four bird species with conservation status in Minnesota ahave been seen here:



Henslow’s Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii)


Special concern

Franklin’s Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan)

Nelson’s Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni)

Purple Martin (Progne subis)


Minnesota DNR Bird checklist


American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)

Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)

Dickcissel (Spiza americana)

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)

House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)

Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata)

==================== 6/21/2019 ====================


American Goldfinch

Black-capped Chickadee

Canada Goose

Mourning Dove



Insects and Arachnids

bicolored striped sweat bee (Agapostemon virescens)

Carolina grasshopper (Dissosteira carolina)

celery looper (Anagrapha falcifera)

common buckeye (Junonia coenia)

dog day cicada (Neotibicen canicularis)

goldenrod bunch gall midge (Rhopalomyia solidaginis)

goldenrod gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis)

monarch (Danaus plexippus)

multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis)

orange sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

red admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

spiny assassin bug (Sinea spinipes)

==================== 6/21/2019 ====================


common buckeye

orange sulphur

red admiral



eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius)

whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

woodchuck (Marmota monax)

==================== 6/21/2019 ====================


eastern fox squirrel


Two plant species with conservation status in Minnesota are found here:



prairie bush clover (Lespedeza leptostachya)


Special concern

buffalo grass (Buchloë dactyloides)


Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas Plant List


Plants frequently found in:

Dry Sand - Gravel Prairie (Southern) UPs13b

Mesic Prairie (Southern) UPs23a

Wet Prairie (Southern) WPs54b



absinth wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

American bugleweed (Lycopus americanus)

American plum (Prunus americana)

big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)

black medick (Medicago lupulina)

black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta var. pulcherrima)

black-seeded plantain (Plantago rugelii var. rugelii)

blue vervain (Verbena hastata)

bottle gentian (Gentiana andrewsii)

boxelder (Acer negundo var. negundo)

bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare)

butter and eggs (Linaria vulgaris)

Canada anemone (Anemone canadensis)

Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

Canada lettuce (Lactuca canadensis)

Canada wildrye (Elymus canadensis)

Canadian horseweed (Conyza canadensis)

Canadian milkvetch (Astragalus canadensis var. canadensis)

Canadian woodnettle (Laportea canadensis)

catnip (Nepeta cataria)

clammy groundcherry (Physalis heterophylla var. heterophylla)

common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)

common burdock (Arctium minus)

common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale ssp. officinale)

common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis)

common hop (Humulus lupulus)

common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

common motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca ssp. cardiaca)

common mullein (Verbascum thapsus ssp. thapsus)

common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum)

cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum var. perfoliatum)

curly dock (Rumex crispus)

curly-cup gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa)

desert false indigo (Amorpha fruticosa)

dotted blazing star (Liatris punctata var. punctata)

downy gentian (Gentiana puberulenta)

dyc (Flava composita var. damnatus)

eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana)

false boneset (Brickellia eupatorioides var. corymbulosa)

false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides var. occidentalis)

field sow thistle (Sonchus arvensis)

giant foxtail (Setaria faberi)

giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida var. trifida)

giant sunflower (Helianthus giganteus)

golden alexanders (Zizia aurea)

gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis)

gray-headed coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)

great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica var. ludoviciana)

green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)

hairy false goldenaster (Heterotheca villosa)

hairy four o’clock (Mirabilis albida)

hairy sunflower (Helianthus hirsutus)

heart-leaved four o’clock (Mirabilis nyctaginea)

hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium)

hoary vervain (Verbena stricta)

Indian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum)

Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans)

ironwood (Ostrya virginiana var. virginiana)

Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)

late goldenrod (Solidago altissima)

leadplant (Amorpha canescens)

little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium var. scoparium)

long-headed coneflower (Ratibida columnifera)

Maximilian’s sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani)

narrow-leaved cattail (Typha angustifolia)

narrow-leaved purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)

New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

Pennsylvania smartweed (Persicaria pensylvanica)

plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides ssp. molinifera)

plumeless thistle (Carduus acanthoides)

prairie blazing star (Liatris pycnostachya var. pycnostachya)

prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata)

prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)

prairie fleabane (Erigeron strigosus)

prairie onion (Allium stellatum)

prairie rose (Rosa arkansana)

prairie sagewort (Artemisia frigida)

purple lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis)

purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea var. purpurea)

quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)

red clover (Trifolium pratense)

reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea)

rough blazing star (Liatris aspera)

rough bugleweed (Lycopus asper)

rough cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium)

round-headed bush clover (Lespedeza capitata)

showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa var. speciosa)

showy partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata var. fasciculata)

sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula var. curtipendula)

silky aster (Symphyotrichum sericeum)

silver maple (Acer saccharinum)

slender-leaf false foxglove (Agalinis tenuifolia)

smooth blue aster (Symphyotrichum laeve var. laeve)

smooth brome (Bromus inermis)

smooth scouring rush (Equisetum laevigatum)

smooth sumac (Rhus glabra)

spotted lady’s thumb (Persicaria maculosa)

spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida)

stiff sunflower (Helianthus pauciflorus ssp. subrhomboideus)

stinging nettle (Urtica dioica ssp. gracilis)

swamp betony (Pedicularis lanceolata)

tall cinquefoil (Drymocallis arguta)

tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum)

timothy (Phleum pratense)

western marbleseed (Lithospermum occidentale)

western poison ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii)

western ragweed (Ambrosia psilostachya)

white campion (Silene latifolia ssp. alba)

white clover (Trifolium repens)

white heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides var. ericoides)

white panicled aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum)

white prairie clover (Dalea candida)

white sage (Artemisia ludoviciana ssp. ludoviciana)

white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima var. altissima)

white sweet clover (Melilotus albus)

whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)

wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)

wild grape (Vitis riparia)

wild licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota)

wolfberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis)

woodbine (Parthenocissus vitacea)

yellow foxtail (Setaria pumila ssp. pumila)

yellow goat’s beard (Tragopogon dubius)

yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis)

==================== 6/21/2019 ====================

green milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora)

prairie bush clover (Lespedeza leptostachya)

purple locoweed (Oxytropis lambertii var. lambertii)

scarlet beeblossom (Gaura coccinea)

water smartweed (Persicaria amphibia)



American plum

black-eyed susan

bottle gentian

butter and eggs

Canadian milkvetch


common evening primrose

common mullein

common yarrow

Culver’s root

downy gentian

false sunflower

field sow thistle

gray-headed coneflower

hairy false goldenaster

long-headed coneflower

narrow-leaved purple coneflower

New England aster

prairie cordgrass

prairie onion

prairie rose

purple prairie clover

round-headed bush clover

showy partridge pea

silky aster

stiff goldenrod

tall cinquefoil

western poison ivy

white prairie clover

white snakeroot

whorled milkweed

wild bergamot

wild licorice


common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)

painted turtle (Chrysemys picta)

common garter snake




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