Mille Lacs Moraine SNA






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Minnesota DNR








This site was designated a Scientific and Natural area on October 8, 2012.












Detail map (MN DNR)


Printable Map(s) with GPS coordinates

  Printable map      



320 acres




From County Road 26 turn north on South Tower Road. Park on the shoulder of the road near the gate. Do not block the gate. Hike 0.54 mile north and west on South Tower Road, a minimum maintenance road. Bear north on an unmaintained road (Tower Road), and hike 260 yards to the gate at the SNA boundary.

N46 16.329, W93 51.265


Driving Directions

  Area and County  

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

          Crow Wing County  
          Northwest Minnesota  

Hiking Trails


South Tower Road, an unmaintained road, passes through the site from north to south.

A hiking trail passes through the site from west to east. It ends abruptly at a channel near the northeast shore of Sunfish Lake.




All hunting. See Hunting and Trapping Regulations (MN DNR) for details.


Ecological Classification

  Ecological Classification  
  Ecological Province    

Laurentian Mixed Forest Province

  Ecological Section    

Western Superior Uplands

  Ecological Subsection    

Mille Lacs Uplands

  Land Type Association    

Mille Lacs Moraine


Native Plant Communities*


Alder - (Maple - Loosestrife) Swamp

Graminoid Poor Fen (Basin)

Low Shrub Poor Fen

Marsh System, Northern Floristic Region

Northern Mixed Cattail Marsh

Northern Wet Ash Swamp

Poor Black Spruce Swamp

Red Oak - Sugar Maple - Basswood - (Large-Flowered Trillium) Forest

Red Oak-Basswood Forest (Non-calcareous Till)

Rich Tamarack Swamp (Eastcentral)

Sedge Meadow

Willow-Dogwood Shrub Swamp

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

Natural Features




















Mosquito headnet recommended

Deer flies (Chrysops sp.) can be bothersome here in June and July. They certainly were during my visit on July 20, 2013. After a few minutes on South Tower Road, I returned to the car to retrieve a mosquito headnet. The deer flies stayed with me for the duration of the visit. The mosquito headnet, worn over a hat, kept the flies off my neck and ears. Only a few times was it necessary to pull it down over my face. I did not suffer a single bite, even on my unprotected (but DEET sprayed) arms. Without the headnet the flies would have made the trip a very unpleasant experience. With the headnet they were a minor annoyance.






Visitor Photos

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Gregg Rutter

    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA   Mille Lacs Moraine SNA  
    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA      


    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA      

South Tower Road (Approach)

    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA      

Site Entrance

    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA   Mille Lacs Moraine SNA  

Tower Road

    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA   Mille Lacs Moraine SNA  
    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA   Mille Lacs Moraine SNA  

Sunfish Lake

    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA   Mille Lacs Moraine SNA  
    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA   Mille Lacs Moraine SNA  

Island in Sunfish Lake

    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA   Mille Lacs Moraine SNA  

Mixed Hardwood Forest

    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA   Mille Lacs Moraine SNA  
    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA      

West Trail

    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA   Mille Lacs Moraine SNA  
    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA   Mille Lacs Moraine SNA  
    Mille Lacs Moraine SNA   Mille Lacs Moraine SNA  



Mille Lacs Moraine SNA
  Mille Lacs Moraine SNA  

Steep hills punctuated by small lakes and wetlands characterize the landscape known as the Mille Lacs Moraine.




Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Mille Lacs Moraine
Dale Bohlke

Oct 18, 2018

This large Scientific and Natural Area is spectacular at peak color. I couldn't get there at peak but this shows a hint of things to come when it is at peak, early October this year. Multiple ridge lines below the forest canopy make this an area that must be walked to be appreciated. SOLO ACOUSTIC GUITAR by Jason Shaw Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 United States— CC BY 3.0 US Music promoted by Audio Library

  Mille Lacs Moraine Scientific and Natural Area Virtual Hike
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Apr 2, 2020

At Mille Lacs Moraine SNA, walk through a mature hardwood forest to the edge of Sunfish Lake, and look out to the little island of pines. In the winter, you can snowshoe through the hilly, silent forest, and in the spring, you can expect a splendid show of wildflowers.




Visitor Sightings

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Gregg Rutter



  common smooth blue aster (Symphyotrichum laeve var. laeve)   common smooth blue aster  





  American toad (Anaxyrus americanus)   American toad  



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

Special Concern

Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea)

Purple Martin (Progne subis)

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)


Minnesota DNR Bird checklist


American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)

Eastern Wood-peewee (Contopus virens)

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)

Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla)

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)


American Robin

Wild Turkey


Fungi and Lichens

  Hintapink (Russula paludosa)   Hintapink  

Insects and Arachnids


American carrion beetle (Necrophila americana)

American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis)

banded hairstreak (Satyrium calanus)

deer fly (Chrysops sp.)

large lace-border (Scopula limboundata)

mustard white (Pieris oleracea)

northern pearly eye (Lethe anthedon)

northern walkingstick (Diapheromera femorata)

plum finger gall mite (Eriophyes emarginatae)

white admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis)

widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)


finger gall of plum finger gall mite

northern pearly eye

widow skimmer




American beaver (Castor canadensis)

American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus)

whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

  American red squirrel  



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


butternut (Juglans cinerea)


Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas and Minnesota Biological Survey Vegetation Releves Plant List


Plants frequently found in:

Alder - (Maple - Loosestrife) Swamp FPn73a

Graminoid Poor Fen (Basin) APn91b

Low Shrub Poor Fen APn91a

Marsh System, Northern Floristic Region MRn

Northern Mixed Cattail Marsh MRn83

Northern Wet Ash Swamp WFn55

Poor Black Spruce Swamp APn81a

Red Oak - Basswood Forest (Noncalcareous Till) MHc36a

Red Oak - Sugar Maple - Basswood - (Large-Flowered Trillium) Forest MHc26b

Rich Tamarack Swamp (Eastcentral) FPn72a

Sedge Meadow WMn82b

Willow - Dogwood Shrub Swamp WMn82a



Allegheny blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis)

Allegheny serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis)

alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum)

American basswood (Tilia americana var. americana)

American bugleweed (Lycopus americanus)

American elm (Ulmus americana)

American hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana var. virginiana)

American red raspberry (Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus)

American spikenard (Aralia racemosa ssp. racemosa)

American stinging nettle (Urtica gracilis ssp. gracilis)

American white waterlily (Nymphaea odorata)

annual fleabane (Erigeron annuus)

arumleaf arrowhead (Sagittaria cuneata)

balsam fir (Abies balsamea var. balsamea)

balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera)

beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta var. cornuta)

bigleaf aster (Eurybia macrophylla)

bigtooth aspen (Populus grandidentata)

bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis)

black-seeded plantain (Plantago rugelii var. rugelii)

bland sweet cicely (Osmorhiza claytonii)

bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

blue vervain (Verbena hastata)

bluebead lily (Clintonia borealis)

boxelder (Acer negundo var. negundo)

broad-leaved arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia)

broadleaf enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea canadensis)

bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa var. macrocarpa)

butternut (Juglans cinerea)

Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)

Canadian clearweed (Pilea pumila)

Canadian honewort (Cryptotaenia canadensis)

chokecherry (Prunus virginiana var. virginiana)

cleavers (Galium aparine)

common blue violet (Viola sororia)

common boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum var. perfoliatum)

common burdock (Arctium minus)

common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale ssp. officinale)

common false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum var. racemosum)

common mullein (Verbascum thapsus ssp. thapsus)

common self-heal (Prunella vulgaris)

common strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)

common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)

common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

downy Parlin’s pussytoes (Antennaria parlinii ssp. fallax)

early goldenrod (Solidago juncea)

early meadow-rue (Thalictrum dioicum)

eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)

field horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

fragrant bedstraw (Galium triflorum)

giant chickweed (Myosoton aquaticum)

golden clover (Trifolium aureum)

green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)

hairy Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum pubescens)

harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)

hog peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata var. bracteata)

hooked buttercup (Ranunculus recurvatus var. recurvatus)

interrupted fern (Claytosmunda claytoniana)

kidney-leaved buttercup (Ranunculus abortivus)

large-flowered bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora)

large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

lowland hog peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata var. comosa)

Maryland black snakeroot (Sanicula marilandica)

Missouri goldenrod (Solidago missouriensis)

narrow-leaved cattail (Typha angustifolia)

northern bedstraw (Galium boreale)

northern blue flag (Iris versicolor)

northern lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina var. angustum)

northern maidenhair (Adiantum pedatum)

northern pin oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis)

northern red oak (Quercus rubra)

ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris var. pensylvanica)

oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)

pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

paper birch (Betula papyrifera var. papyrifera)

Pennsylvania buttercup (Ranunculus pensylvanicus)

pointed-leaved tick-trefoil (Hylodesmum glutinosum)

poke milkweed (Asclepias exaltata)

quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)

red clover (Trifolium pratense)

red maple (Acer rubrum var. rubrum)

red pine (Pinus resinosa)

reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea)

roadside agrimony (Agrimonia striata)

rough cinquefoil (Potentilla norvegica)

round-leaved dogwood (Cornus rugosa)

sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis)

slender willow (Salix petiolaris)

smooth yellow violet (Viola pubescens var. scabriuscula)

spotted touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis)

spotted water hemlock (Cicuta maculata)

spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)

stiff clubmoss (Spinulum annotinum)

sugar maple (Acer saccharum ssp. saccharum)

sulphur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta)

swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata ssp. incarnata)

timothy (Phleum pratense ssp. pratense)

upright carrionflower (Smilax ecirrhata)

variegated yellow pond lily (Nuphar variegata)

veiny pea (Lathyrus venosus var. intonsus)

western bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum)

western poison ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii)

white avens (Geum canadense)

white campion (Silene latifolia ssp. alba)

white clover (Trifolium repens ssp. repens)

white oak (Quercus alba)

white rattlesnake root (Nabalus albus)

white vervain (Verbena urticifolia)

wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

wild geranium (Geranium maculatum)

wild grape (Vitis riparia)

wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)

woodbine (Parthenocissus vitacea)

yellow avens (Geum aleppicum)

yellow marsh marigold (Caltha palustris var. palustris)

yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta)

zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis)


Abies balsamea var. balsamea (balsam fir)

Acer negundo var. negundo (boxelder)

Acer rubrum var. rubrum (red maple)

Acer saccharum ssp. saccharum (sugar maple)

Achillea millefolium (common yarrow)

Adiantum pedatum (northern maidenhair)

Agrimonia striata (roadside agrimony)

Amelanchier laevis (Allegheny serviceberry)

Amphicarpaea bracteata var. bracteata (hog peanut)

Amphicarpaea bracteata var. comosa (lowland hog peanut)

Antennaria parlinii ssp. fallax (downy Parlin’s pussytoes)

Apocynum androsaemifolium (spreading dogbane)

Aquilegia canadensis (wild columbine)

Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla)

Aralia racemosa ssp. racemosa (American spikenard)

Arctium minus (common burdock)

Asclepias exaltata (poke milkweed)

Asclepias incarnata ssp. incarnata (swamp milkweed)

Athyrium filix-femina var. angustum (northern lady fern)

Betula papyrifera var. papyrifera (paper birch)

Caltha palustris var. palustris (yellow marsh marigold)

Campanula rotundifolia (harebell)

Carya cordiformis (bitternut hickory)

Cicuta maculata (spotted water hemlock)

Circaea canadensis (broadleaf enchanter’s nightshade)

Clintonia borealis (bluebead lily)

Cornus alternifolia (pagoda dogwood)

Cornus rugosa (round-leaved dogwood)

Corylus cornuta var. cornuta (beaked hazelnut)

Cryptotaenia canadensis (Canadian honewort)

Equisetum arvense (field horsetail)

Erigeron annuus (annual fleabane)

Eupatorium perfoliatum var. perfoliatum (common boneset)

Eurybia macrophylla (bigleaf aster)

Fragaria virginiana (common strawberry)

Fraxinus pennsylvanica (green ash)

Galium aparine (cleavers)

Galium boreale (northern bedstraw)

Galium triflorum (fragrant bedstraw)

Geranium maculatum (wild geranium)

Geum aleppicum (yellow avens)

Geum canadense (white avens)

Hylodesmum glutinosum (pointed-leaved tick-trefoil)

Impatiens capensis (spotted touch-me-not)

Iris versicolor (northern blue flag)

Juglans cinerea (butternut)

Lathyrus venosus var. intonsus) (veiny pea)

Leucanthemum vulgare (oxeye daisy)

Lycopus americanus (American bugleweed)

Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)

Maianthemum racemosum var. racemosum (common false Solomon’s seal)

Matteuccia struthiopteris var. pensylvanica (ostrich fern)

Myosoton aquaticum (giant chickweed)

Nabalus albus (white rattlesnake root)

Nuphar variegata (variegated yellow pond lily)

Nymphaea odorata (American white waterlily)

Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)

Osmorhiza claytonii (bland sweet cicely)

Claytosmunda claytoniana (interrupted fern)

Ostrya virginiana var. virginiana (American hophornbeam)

Oxalis stricta (yellow wood sorrel)

Parthenocissus vitacea (woodbine)

Phalaris arundinacea (reed canary grass)

Phleum pratense ssp. pratense (timothy)

Pilea pumila (Canadian clearweed)

Pinus resinosa (red pine)

Pinus strobus (eastern white pine)

Plantago rugelii var. rugelii (black-seeded plantain)

Polygonatum pubescens (hairy Solomon’s seal)

Populus balsamifera (balsam poplar)

Populus grandidentata (bigtooth aspen)

Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen)

Potentilla norvegica (rough cinquefoil)

Potentilla recta (sulphur cinquefoil)

Prunella vulgaris (common self-heal)

Prunus virginiana var. virginiana (chokecherry)

Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum (western bracken fern)

Quercus alba (white oak)

Quercus ellipsoidalis (northern pin oak)

Quercus macrocarpa var. macrocarpa (bur oak)

Quercus rubra (northern red oak)

Ranunculus abortivus (kidney-leaved buttercup)

Ranunculus pensylvanicus (Pennsylvania buttercup)

Ranunculus recurvatus var. recurvatus (hooked buttercup)

Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac)

Rubus allegheniensis (Allegheny blackberry)

Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus (American red raspberry)

Sagittaria cuneata (arumleaf arrowhead)

Sagittaria latifolia (broad-leaved arrowhead)

Salix petiolaris (slender willow)

Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot)

Sanicula marilandica (Maryland black snakeroot)

Silene latifolia ssp. alba (white campion)

Smilax ecirrhata (upright carrionflower)

Solidago flexicaulis (zigzag goldenrod)

Solidago juncea (early goldenrod)

Solidago missouriensis (Missouri goldenrod)

Spinulum annotinum (stiff clubmoss)

Tanacetum vulgare (common tansy)

Taraxacum officinale ssp. officinale (common dandelion)

Thalictrum dioicum (early meadow-rue)

Tilia americana var. americana (American basswood)

Toxicodendron rydbergii (western poison ivy)

Trifolium aureum (golden clover)

Trifolium hybridum (alsike clover)

Trifolium pratense (red clover)

Trifolium repens ssp. repens (white clover)

Trillium grandiflorum (large-flowered trillium)

Typha angustifolia (narrow-leaved cattail)

Ulmus americana (American elm)

Urtica gracilis ssp. gracilis (American stinging nettle)

Uvularia grandiflora (large-flowered bellwort)

Verbascum thapsus ssp. thapsus (common mullein)

Verbena hastata (blue vervain)

Verbena urticifolia (white vervain)

Viola pubescens var. scabriuscula (smooth yellow violet)

Viola sororia (common blue violet)

Vitis riparia (wild grape)


alsike clover

American hog peanut (var. bracteata)

American spikenard

American white waterlily (ssp. tuberosa)

annual fleabane


blue vervain

bluebead lily

broad-leaved arrowhead

bur oak (var. macrocarpa)


common blue violet

common boneset

common mullein

common yarrow

fragrant bedstraw


large-flowered bellwort

large-flowered trillium

northern bedstraw

oxeye daisy

red clover

rough cinquefoil

sulphur cinquefoil

spotted water hemlock

swamp milkweed

variegated yellow pond lily

white clover

wild columbine

wild geranium

yellow marsh marigold













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