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
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.
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
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.