Tag Archives: Bike birding

As a family, a group of friends or on your own bike-bird opportunities in the Willmar Lakes Area are endless.

Family fun spring bike-bird opportunities in the Willmar Lakes Area

Looking for a bird-bike destination with endless opportunities for a family outing, a place to explore with friends or a getaway for yourself?

Consider planning a trip to the Willmar Lakes Area.  Head west out of the Twin Cities and before you know it you will be greeted to small-town charm and a sprawling countryside full of birding opportunities. To the naked eye it may seem like just another rural prairie community, but head out on a bike with your binoculars and the area presents its many birding haunts. Here along this major migrating flyway, you are sure to spot many species from the Minnesota Prairie Bird List, that nest in the area.

Now, as warmer weather approaches the trees and marshes along the trails and roads here become a special place to visit. Allowing birders and cyclists plenty of great outdoor space, in Kandiyohi County, for biking and birding.

A perfect spring bike-bird location in western Minnesota

The Willmar Lakes Area is the perfect place to visit anytime of the year for a weekend bike getaway.

The Willmar Lakes Area is the perfect bike getaway to visit any time of the year.

Species to check off your list when bike-bird opportunities arise in the Willmar Area

Besides the Red Crossbill that has been sighted around the MinnWest Technology Campus, in Willmar, many parks here along the trail are also worth checking out. Some of the great birding haunts in the area include; Sibley State Park, Mason Lake State Park, the Prairiewood Environmental Learning Center, and a couple of Big Kandiyohi Lake County Parks, easily accessible from the Glacial Lake State Trail. When visiting here are some of the other birds you may see to check off your list: the Short-eared Owl; Townsend’s Solitaire; Long-eared Owl; Black-throated Green Warbler; Connecticut Warbler; Snowy Egret; Common Gallinule; Blue Grosbeak; Eastern Screech-Owl; White-winged Crossbill and a Long-tailed Duck.

Getting around on your bike in Willmar is more than encouraging. Awarded the Bike Friendly Bronze status by the League of American Cyclist, the community has redesigned its streets and inner city trails to make it easy to pedal around and explore the area’s attractions and parks.

Getting around Willmar with your bike and binoculars

While biking, this is also a great area for bird enthusiasts. Sibley State Park is one of the most popular areas, so make sure you bring your binoculars and camera. Around the park, you will have a chance to see many of the 206 different species of birds that nest or migrate through the area. And with the Glacial Trail, it’s easy to get out to the park, by bike, from your hotel room in the Willmar Lakes Area.

About the Glacial Lakes State Trail

Built on a former Burlington Northern railroad line the trail is generally level and wheelchair accessible. The trail is paved for 22 miles between Willmar, Spicer, New London, Hawick, and the Kandiyohi/Stearns County line. This multi-use bike corridor offers many opportunities to look at wildflowers and wildlife along the way.

Bring the binoculars along, for some of the birds sittings along the trail you may see!

Bring the binoculars along, for some birds sittings along the trail!

Sibley State Park and Mount Tom

Once you get there, hike up Mount Tom. It’s worth the walk and will give you a bird-eye view, of a 50-mile radius at the summit, of the areas patchwork of forest, farmland, prairie knolls and lakes. Along with prime birding activities here with interpretive programs in the spring, it is also open year-around.

In the park, you will find nearly two miles of paved trails that link Lakeview Campground and the Interpretive Center. With a slight elevation change, another favorite haunt is the Pond View Trail loop offering more birding opportunities.

Other parks and trails

Enjoy the miles of scenic paved trails in the prairie lands of the Willmar Lakes Area.

Enjoy the miles of scenic paved trails in the prairie lands of the Willmar Lakes Area.

Willmar and the surrounding area makes it easy for everyone to enjoy the outdoors. With several parks offering recreational activities and trails, those who visit with their bike will find many haunts to pedal to, including Bergquist Park, Ramblewood Park, Rau Park (Scott Park), Thompson Park, and Swansson Park.  From the trail, you can also reach Robbins Island Park and the park at Green Lake.

Rural road bike-bird opportunities

There are also plenty of bike-friendly Kandiyohi County roads, paved and gravel, to help you navigate the area to reach other marshy areas popular with several bird species here.

More about the bike-friendly Willmar Lakes Area

Willmar also has the Yellow Bike program that places bikes at different spots throughout town. Community members and visitors can use these bikes free of charge during the day.

When you are not riding, the area also offers plenty of indoor attractions when you want to relax. Along with several museums covering different parts of Minnesota’s history, Then, after your ride enjoy a refreshing beverage as you take a break from the outdoor activities in this scenic prairie lakes area.

AA great destination for a bike adventure riding the trails and bike friendly roads in the Twin Cities Gateway.

An endless bike adventure in the Twin Cities Gateway of Minnesota

by Andrew Ellis

Take a deep breath as you grip your handlebars and prepare for a bike adventure in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities. You will feel as if you’re deep in the country. As this north metro community area borders the Mississippi River Trail it can be your personal playground while visiting.

When in the area you can: stop and fish; play a round of disc golf; go birding; travel through a chain of lakes by bike or canoe; or explore one of the many parks. You can even satisfy your inner sports fan by visiting the National Sports Center, with a velodrome track.

Stop along the trail in the Twin Cities Gateway for a some fishing.

Stop along the trail in the Twin Cities Gateway if wetting a line and catching some fish are a part of  your agenda.

The Twin Cities Gateway is made up of nine different bike-friendly communities: Anoka; Blaine;, Coon Rapids; Fridley; Ham Lake; Lino Lakes; Mounds View; New Brighton; and Shoreview. All unique in their own way they all offering relaxed small town-type atmospheres with plenty to do, perfect for anyone looking to get away and only minutes from the big city.

A friendly bike adventure get-away

The Twin Cities Gateway is just a short drive, or an easy commute by bike from Minneapolis or St Paul. Another major feature is the Mississippi River Trail  (MRT) following the rivers edge in three of the nine Getaway communities: Anoka; Coon Rapids; and Fridley. Plus the other six Gateway Cities have bike friendly roads and trails that lead to the MRT for a bike adventure.

After riding the trails and bike friendly roads in the Twin Cities Gateway enjoying a cold beverage with friends is a great way to seal the ride.

After riding the trails and bike friendly roads enjoy a cold beverage with friends at the Hammer Heart Brewery, it’s a great way to seal the ride.

 Mississippi River Trail (MRT)

The MRT starts at the headwaters of  Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota and passes through the Twin Cities Gateway before flowing into the Gulf, at the mouth of the river in Venice, Louisiana. While riding along the river in the Gateway communities you’ll pass many opportunities for site-seeing, so make sure your camera is fully charged.

Other Off-Road Trails and Parks

You can take the Rum River Regional Trail down to where it meets the MRT, maybe stopping in historic downtown Anoka along the way? There is also the scenic trails in Bunker Hills Regional Park offering heavily wooded and prairie flower landscapes. Or, take the thrilling Coon Creek Regional Trail that connects to the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park and the MRT.

Stop along the trail in the Twin Cities Gateway for a round of disc golf.

Stop along the trail, in several of the parks in the Twin Cities Gateway for a round of disc golf.

For a more extensive rides you can also explore the trails along the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve. Or, take the Rice Creek West Regional Trail back to the Mississippi River. This trail passes through Long Lake Park which has several trails that take you by the park’s namesake and Rush Lake. Another option are the trails in the Vadnais-Snail Lakes Regional Park which is filled to the brim and full of beautiful scenery as you switch from one trail to the next.

National Sports Center

If you’re tired of riding trails and want more of a challenge, check out the velodrome at the National Sports Center, in Blaine. The wooden track is open to the public every Thursday for single speed fun. The season begins in late spring and through the summer. Check out their website for more details.

For more info take a look at the At-A-Glance TC Gateway article

Now that you are considering an adventure to the Twin Cities Gateway, also check out our HaveFunBiking  At-A-Glance Twin Cities Gateway Article. Here you will find more details on where to stay, play, and explore this nine city area. Great for planning and to link to your your hand-held devise, for guaranteed fun.

Bike Minnesota’s Salt Lake Birding Festival

With temperature predicted to be back into the 60’s, you will find the 41st Annual Salt Lake Birding event, in Western Minnesota, a fun place to explore by bike. Consider packing up the bikes and family for a spring birding weekend in the Prairie Waters Region of the state on Saturday April 23, 2016. With many birding haunts on local gravel roads, both fat and wide tired bikes work well to quietly approach and view the many species of birds returning to the area.

Bird watchers, looking out at several species of waterfall, on Salt Lake.

Bird watchers, looking out at several species of waterfall, on Salt Lake.

Volunteers will guide birders around Salt Lake, Big Stone Refuge and the lakes, wetlands, and native prairies in Lac qui Parle and southern Big Stone counties over the weekend. The event is free and open to all those who are interested – plus, no pre-registration is needed.

Each year birders will see many species of waterfowl including: Common Goldeneye and American Black Ducks. Also spotted were Snowy and Cattle Egrets and White-faced Ibis. A number of birders located Bald Eagles and Great- horned Owls on nests in the area. Also spotted were three birds that are usually found later in the year, Black Tern, Least Flycatcher and Black and White Warbler. The most unusual find was a Say’s Phoebe, the first time it’s been found by Salt Lake Birders here in Minnesota. Last year, over 90 birders found 143 different species of birds over the weekend. Check out this photo gallery, of some of the birds you may see.

A number of species of waterfowl out in front of the viewing. deck, feeding.

A number of species of waterfowl out in front of the viewing. deck, feeding.

It all happens on  Saturday April 23, at 7 a.m. meet at the Marietta American Legion, located one block west of the intersection of County Road 7 and State Highway 40 (11-miles west of Madison). Coffee, sweet rolls, juice and milk will be available for purchase. Guided car caravans will leave between 7 and 8 a.m.

At noon, stop back at the Legion for a sloppy joes and cake (available at a modest cost). And to compare notes with others a Saturday evening chicken dinner, will be available at the Sons of Norway Hall, on Highway 75, in Madison.

Reservations are necessary for dinner; please contact Julie Claflin by email at JulieClaflin@gmail.com. After dinner there will be a short program and then the species count for the day will be recorded.

Friday and Sunday birding is on your own, however you may stop by Prairie Marsh Farm for advice and directions to local sites.  See the HaveFunBiking.com  Prairie Waters Destination Page

Or

Local lodging is available at Lou’s Lodge in Madison 320-598-7518, the Vali Vu Motel in Ortonville 320-839-2558, Prairie Waters Inn in Appleton 320-289-2500, and the Country Inn by Carlson in Montevideo 320-269-8000. Free camping is available at Prairie Marsh Farm, 1770 151st Ave, Marietta, located 7 miles west of US 75 and 1.5 miles south of 212. Contact Ken Larson for more information or to reserve a camping site – home 952-595-9265, cell 612-210-8486  prairiemarshfarm@comcast.net Information and map at http://moumn.org/saltlake/.