Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Chaska Unit








U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service




The Chaska Unit is one of eight units that make up the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. It lies on the north bank of the Minnesota River in an outer Twin Cities suburb. South of the river is the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area, Lawrence Unit. This site is part of a much larger area that has been designated as the Lower Minnesota River Valley Important Bird Area (IBA). A hiking trail passes through riverbottom forest along the bank of the Minnesota River. A point of interest is a giant plains cottonwood next to the trail large enough to be included on the printed map.
















Rapids Lake, Chaska and Louisville Swamp Units Trail Map


Printable Map(s) with GPS coordinates




600 acres




Athletic Park may be closed with a locked gate across the entrance road if there is no ball game in progress. When it is locked park in the cul-de-sac.

North Parking (Athletic Park - may be closed)
N44 46.814, W93 36.545

In Riverfront Park, park at the boat launch at the end of the park road.

South Parking (Riverfront Park)
N44 46.014, W93 37.028




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  

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          Carver County  
          Metro Area  

Hiking Trails


The Chaska Lake Trail follows an administrative road. It leads 1.7 miles from Riverfront Park at the south to Athletic Park at the north. Visitors are asked to remain on the established trails in order to protect the wildlife.




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    

Big Woods

  Land Type Association    

Le Sueur Alluvial Plain

Maple Plain Moraine


Native Plant Communities*


Not mapped (10/11/2021)

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

Natural Features


Riverbottom silver maple forest; old field restored to floodplain forest; Chaska Lake; a slough; marsh; managed wetland areas (closed to the public); and a very large, old growth plains cottonwood.






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South Entrance (Riverfront Park)

    Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Chaska Unit      

South Parking

    Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Chaska Unit      

Informatioon Kiosk

    Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Chaska Unit      

North Entrance (Athletic Park)

    Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Chaska Unit      

Riverbottom Forest

    Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Chaska Unit   Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Chaska Unit  

Minnesota River

    Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Chaska Unit      

Trail (Administrative Road)

    Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Chaska Unit   Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Chaska Unit  






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Visitor Sightings

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  northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens)   northern leopard frog  



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


Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor)

Special Concern

Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens)

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Forster’s Tern (Sterna forsteri)

Franklin’s Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan)

Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus)

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Purple Martin (Progne subis)

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)


eBird Field Checklist


American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)

Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus)

House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)

Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)


Blue Jay

Canada Goose

Tundra Swan

White-breasted Nuthatch


Fungi and Lichens

  Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)   Oyster Mushroom  


  fox squirrel (Sciurus niger)   fox squirrel  



One plant species with conservation status in Minnesota is found here:


hooded arrowhead (Sagittaria calycina var. calycina)


Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas and Minnesota Biological Survey Vegetation Releves Plant List



American basswood (Tilia americana var. americana)

American black currant (Ribes americanum)

American elm (Ulmus americana)

American stinging nettle (Urtica gracilis ssp. gracilis)

Amur maple (Acer ginnala)

Aunt Lucy (Ellisia nyctelea)

barnyard grass (Echinochloa crus-galli)

black-seeded plantain (Plantago rugelii var. rugelii)

Blue Ridge carrionflower (Smilax lasioneura)

boxelder (Acer negundo var. negundo)

bristly greenbrier (Smilax tamnoides)

bur cucumber (Sicyos angulatus)

Canada anemone (Anemonastrum canadense)

Canada moonseed (Menispermum canadense)

Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Canadian clearweed (Pilea pumila)

Canadian horseweed (Erigeron canadensis)

Canadian woodnettle (Laportea canadensis)

common blue violet (Viola sororia)

common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)

common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale ssp. officinale)

common plantain (Plantago major)

common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)

common threeseed mercury (Acalypha rhomboidea)

cut-leaved coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata var. laciniata)

desert false indigo (Amorpha fruticosa)

eastern black nightshade (Solanum emulans)

field horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

gallant soldier (Galinsoga parviflora var. parviflora)

green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)

green carpetweed (Mollugo verticillata)

green foxtail (Setaria viridis var. viridis)

ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium)

Indian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum)

nodding bur marigold (Bidens cernua)

northern hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris var. pensylvanica)

peachleaf willow (Salix amygdaloides)

Pennsylvania smartweed (Persicaria pensylvanica)

plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides ssp. molinifera)

poke milkweed (Asclepias exaltata)

prairie cordgrass (Sporobolus michauxianus)

prairie ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata ssp. fasciculata)

prairie rose (Rosa arkansana)

purple-stem beggarticks (Bidens connata)

quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)

red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea ssp. sericea)

redroot amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus)

rock elm (Ulmus thomasii)

rough cinquefoil (Potentilla norvegica)

rough cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium)

sandbar willow (Salix interior)

shaggy soldier (Galinsoga quadriradiata)

shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)

Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila)

silver maple (Acer saccharinum)

spotted lady’s thumb (Persicaria maculosa)

spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

three-lobe beggarticks (Bidens tripartita)

velvet-leaf (Abutilon theophrasti)

water smartweed (Persicaria amphibia)

white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima var. altissima)

white vervain (Verbena urticifolia)

wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)

wild grape (Vitis riparia)

woodbine (Parthenocissus vitacea)

woodland horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum)

yellow foxtail (Setaria pumila ssp. pumila)

yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta)


Abutilon theophrasti (velvet-leaf)

Acalypha rhomboidea (common threeseed mercury)

Acer ginnala (Amur maple)

Acer negundo var. negundo (boxelder)

Acer saccharinum (silver maple)

Ageratina altissima var. altissima (white snakeroot)

Amaranthus retroflexus (redroot amaranth)

Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed)

Amorpha fruticosa (desert false indigo)

Anemonastrum canadense (Canada anemone)

Apocynum androsaemifolium (spreading dogbane)

Apocynum cannabinum (Indian hemp)

Asclepias exaltata (poke milkweed)

Bidens cernua (nodding bur marigold)

Bidens connata (purple-stem beggarticks)

Bidens tripartita (three-lobe beggarticks)

Calystegia sepium (hedge bindweed)

Capsella bursa-pastoris (shepherd’s purse)

Celtis occidentalis (northern hackberry)

Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle)

Cornus sericea ssp. sericea (red osier dogwood)

Echinochloa crus-galli (barnyard grass)

Echinocystis lobata (wild cucumber)

Ellisia nyctelea (Aunt Lucy)

Equisetum arvense (field horsetail)

Equisetum sylvaticum (woodland horsetail)

Erigeron canadensis (Canadian horseweed)

Fraxinus pennsylvanica (green ash)

Galinsoga quadriradiata (shaggy soldier)

Glechoma hederacea (ground ivy)

Laportea canadensis (Canadian woodnettle)

Matteuccia struthiopteris var. pensylvanica (ostrich fern)

Menispermum canadense (Canada moonseed)

Mollugo verticillata (green carpetweed)

Oxalis stricta (yellow wood sorrel)

Parthenocissus vitacea (woodbine)

Persicaria amphibia (water smartweed)

Persicaria maculosa (spotted lady’s thumb)

Persicaria pensylvanica (Pennsylvania smartweed)

Pilea pumila (Canadian clearweed)

Plantago major (common plantain)

Plantago rugelii var. rugelii (black-seeded plantain)

Populus deltoides ssp. molinifera (plains cottonwood)

Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen)

Potentilla norvegica (rough cinquefoil)

Rhamnus cathartica (common buckthorn)

Ribes americanum (American black currant)

Rosa arkansana (prairie rose)

Rudbeckia laciniata var. laciniata (cut-leaved coneflower)

Salix amygdaloides (peachleaf willow)

Salix interior (sandbar willow)

Setaria pumila ssp. pumila (yellow foxtail)

Setaria viridis var. viridis (green foxtail)

Sicyos angulatus (bur cucumber)

Smilax lasioneura (Blue Ridge carrionflower)

Smilax tamnoides (bristly greenbrier)

Solanum emulans (eastern black nightshade)

Sporobolus michauxianus (prairie cordgrass)

Tanacetum vulgare (common tansy)

Taraxacum officinale ssp. officinale (common dandelion)

Tilia americana var. americana (American basswood)

Ulmus americana (American elm)

Ulmus pumila (Siberian elm)

Ulmus thomasii (rock elm)

Urtica gracilis ssp. gracilis (American stinging nettle)

Verbena urticifolia (white vervain)

Vernonia fasciculata ssp. fasciculata (prairie ironweed)

Viola sororia (common blue violet)

Vitis riparia (wild grape)

Xanthium strumarium (rough cocklebur)


Amur maple

Canada anemone

common blue violet

common dandelion

common tansy

desert false indigo

ground ivy

hedge bindweed

nodding bur marigold

poke milkweed

prickly rose

rough cinquefoil

spreading dogbane

swamp smartweed

wild grape

yellow wood sorrel

American black currant



  common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)   common garter snake  






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