Minnesota Valley NWR

Black Dog Unit








U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service








Black Dog Preserve Scientific and Natural Area was de-designated an SNA on November 9, 2011. In December, 2011, the USFWS acquired an additional 126 acres. The Nature Conservancy donated 95 acres it owned and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources donated or sold an additional 31 acres of state owned land. Together, these two parcels comprised the former Black Dog Nature Preserve SNA. Following the acquisition, the Black Dog Trail was closed until July 25, 2012, while the US Fish & Wildlife Service completed a refuge evaluation.

Until 2012, a very small part of this preserve was a wildlife sanctuary and was accessible only to those with a research permit from the Minnesota DNR. The former(?) sanctuary could be viewed in its entirety from the adjacent raised railroad tracks.












Long Meadow Lake and Black Dog Units Trail Map


Printable Map(s) with GPS coordinates




West Section

  Printable map   Printable map  







Cliff Road
Park in the Cliff Fen Park parking lot on the north side of Cliff Road.
N44 47.220, W93 16.540

West Black Dog Road
There is a small parking area by the observation platform on the south side of West Black Dog Road.
N44 48.443, W93 15.989




Sunrise to Sunset for approved activities, including federal holidays




No fee

No National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota charges a fee


Driving Directions

  Area and County  

Get driving directions from Google Maps to this destination from any address, and send those directions to your phone.

          Dakota County  
          Metro Area  

Hiking Trails


Black Dog Trail
From Cliff Fen Park to near Blackdog Park: 1.62 miles




No public hunting opportunities are found at Long Meadow Lake, Black Dog Units, Bloomington Ferry Unit, Upgrala Unit, Chaska Unit, or San Fransisco Unit


Ecological Classification

  Ecological Classification  
  Ecological Province    

Eastern Broadleaf Forest Province

  Ecological Section    

Minnesota & NE Iowa Morainal

  Ecological Subsection    

St. Paul-Baldwin Plains and Moraines

  Land Type Association    

Pig’s Eye Alluvial Plain

Wescott Moraine


Native Plant Communities*


Calcareous Fen (Southeastern)

Mesic Prairie (Southern)

Pin Oak - Bur Oak Woodland

Seepage Meadow/Carr

  * Source: The Minnesota Biological Survey, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Ecological Resources      

Natural Features








Visitor Photos

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Crystal Boyd

    Minnesota Valley NWR, Black Dog Preserve Unit      
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos

Mesic Prairie (Southern)

    Minnesota Valley NWR, Black Dog Unit      



Black Dog Nature Preserve SNA
  Black Dog Nature Preserve SNA  

Black Dog Nature Preserve Scientific and Natural Area in Savage, Minnesota, just south of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul).

For other photos from this site, click here.




Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Alec and I at Black Dog Lake

Nov 28, 2020

Alec Johnson and I went out location scouting yesterday and this spot at Black Dog Lake is the spot. We shot some then and save for future outings, maybe with snow. Enjoy.

  Black Dog Lake to Cliff Rd
Paul Paddock

Apr 17, 2021

  Biking Minnesota (Stuck in sand and mud by Black Dog Lake)
Droobi Wanders

Oct 2, 2020

Exciting trip that included beautiful view of the Mississippi Rivers, Black Dog Lake, Minnesota Valley National Wild Life Refuge. and other parts of the Snelling State Park. Minneapolis-St Paul, south of MSP.

  Black Dog Morning
Mickey McCabe

Oct 15, 2015

  Black Dog Lake Cleanup
Conservation Minnesota

Jun 5, 2008

Ron Schara profiles Dick Duerre who has volunteered time over the past 3 decades to do water testing of Black Dog Lake.




Visitor Sightings

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Robert Briggs


Fungi and Lichens

  Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus)   Shaggy Mane  

Wayne Rasmussen



  Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)   Red-tailed Hawk  

Crystal Boyd




blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.)

edible valerian (Valeriana edulis var. ciliata)

hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens)

small white lady’s slipper (Cypripedium candidum)

swamp buttercup (Ranunculus hispidus)

yellow star-grass (Hypoxis hirsuta)

  small white lady’s-slipper  
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings





Thirteen bird species with conservation status in Minnesota have been seen here:


Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)

Special Concern

Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens)

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Bell’s Vireo (Vireo bellii)

Forster’s Tern (Sterna forsteri)

Franklin’s Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan)

Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus)

Nelson’s Sparrow (Ammospiza nelsoni)

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Purple Martin (Progne subis)

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)


Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas Birds List

eBird Field Checklist – Black Dog Power Plant

eBird Field Checklist – Black Dog Lake

eBird Field Checklist – Black Dog Lake outlet (east)

eBird Field Checklist – Minnesota Valley NWR--Cliff Fen

eBird Field Checklist – Black Dog Lake--West Outflow


American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)


American Goldfinch

Black-capped Chickadee

Northern Cardinal




One fish species with conservation status in Minnesota has been seen here:


American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula)


Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas Fishes List


Fungi and Lichens


Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas Fungi List

  Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus)   Shaggy Mane  

Insects and Arachnids


American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis)

eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)

eastern tent caterpillar moth (Malacosoma americana)

eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

sumac flea beetle (Blepharida rhois)

  eastern pondhawk  



eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)

eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

  eastern cottontail  



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


edible valerian (Valeriana edulis var. ciliata)

hair-like beak-rush (Rhynchospora capillacea)

hooded arrowhead (Sagittaria calycina var. calycina)

sterile sedge (Carex sterilis)

whorled nut-rush (Scleria verticillata)

Special Concern

small white lady’s slipper (Cypripedium candidum)

smooth sawgrass (Cladium mariscoides)


Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas and Minnesota Biological Survey Vegetation Releves Plant List


Plants frequently found in:

Calcareous Fen (Southeastern) OPp93c

Mesic Prairie (Southern) UPs23a

Pin Oak - Bur Oak Woodland FDs37b

Seepage Meadow/Carr WMs83a1


American plum

black cherry

common blue violet

edible valerian

garlic mustard

hoary puccoon

Virginia waterleaf

marsh marigold


























Important Bird Area

Black Dog Lake is part of the Lower Minnesota River Valley Important Bird Area (MRVIBA). It is an important stop for migrating waterfowl.




























Biological Control of Invasive Species

Leaf beetles have been released here by the Minnesota DNR in an effort to control the spread of purple loosestrife.











Degraded Fen

Many rare plant species formerly found on the calcareous fen no longer grow here. Water levels have been reduced due to draw down from urban wells.



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