Tag Archives: Wargo Nature Center

Pedal, then Paddle Gateway's Rice Creek Chain of Lakes with canoe and kayak rentals at the Wargo Nature Center.

Pedal, then Paddle the TC Gateways Rice Creek Chain of Lakes

For a wildlife-rich summer, experience not soon forgotten, pedal, then paddle, the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes up in the Twin Cities Gateway Area. With an abundance of bike trails and roads to get there, you will find several options at Wargo Nature Center once arriving. Head out with a paddle, hike, or bike the trails that meander around the chain of lakes shoreline in this mammoth park reserve in the Twin City Area.

Paddling the Twin Cities Gateway's Rice Creek Chain of Lakes is a wildlife-rich experience to remember.

Paddling the Twin Cities Gateway’s Rice Creek Chain of Lakes is a wildlife-rich experience to remember.

You will find the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes near the community of Lino Lakes, on the south side of Interstate 35W. Once there, Nature Center can fix you up with canoe and kayak rentals to paddle Rice Creek Chain of Lakes. It is a bit of heaven in the north metro area. Being able to paddle out from the Nature Center on George Watch Lake is a tranquil experience.

What You Will See Paddling the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes

Through the summer and into the fall, you can paddle out from the dock at the Nature Center and connect to one lake after the next. Along the way, you are sure to see occasional Leopard frogs hopping off a Lilly pad. Then, perhaps you’ll ever see a Blue Heron and Snowy White Egrets lift off as you pass by.

Hawks are common spectators to the activities as you paddle along the water trail or pedal along the bike trail in the Rice Creek Reserve.

Hawks are familiar spectators watching as you paddle along the water trail or the bike trail in the Reserve.

The creek and lakes on this water trail offer excellent bird-watching opportunities. And this is the perfect place for the novice paddler. Adventurers will see plenty of raptors such as egrets and herons perching in nearby trees or forage along the shoreline. Along the way, you may see a sandpiper scampered across a sandbar.

Egrets and blue heron are also a common to see as you paddle along.

Egrets and Blue Heron are common to see as you paddle.

Maybe you’ll see a  soft-shell turtle sliding off the bank. Or perhaps an eagle, osprey, or Turkey Vulture swooping down to grab its meal as a fish jumps. It’s scenic and wild at its best, right here in the Twin Cities Gateway!


About the Rice Creek Chain

The nearly 5,300-acre Rice Creek Chain is one of two regional parks in the Twin Cities Area that offer multiple-lake paddling. According to many who paddle this north metro chain, the mix of lake and forest vegetation makes it feel like a mini-Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The other Reserve in the south metro is Lebanon Hills Park. Lebanon Hills Park is a 2,000-acre multi-lake area with only portage paths between them.

Generally, on the Rice Creek Chain, portaging is not necessary. The only exception is the occasional downed tree to circumvent, which usually happens in the spring. This rustic North Metro reserve has a water trail wandering through several lakes before reaching Rice Creek. Rice Creek is a more challenging, less-traveled stretch that flows south to Long Lake. From there, it heads to the Mississippi River.

Paddlers who want a more extended trip can follow Rice Creek out the northwest corner of Long Lake in New Brighton. The creek flows to the Mississippi River at Manomin Park in Fridley. The complete paddle from the Lake Peltier boat ramp in the Rice Creek Reserve to the Mississippi River is about 22 miles.

Rice Creek Reserve rents equipment

Wargo Nature Center is the place for canoe, kayak, and life jacket rentals. Located on George Watch Lake, rentals can also be used on Peltier, Marshan, Rice, and Reshanau Lakes. Paddle craft rentals are available May through September, during regular hours. Here is their website for rental prices and times: https://www.anokacounty.us/874/Recreational-Rental-Equipment. Call 651-429-8007 to check watercraft availability, lake temperatures, and water levels.

For those who want to use their canoes or kayaks in the Reserve, paddling access points include Rice Creek crossings near: Hodgson Road, Lexington Avenue, County Road I, and County Road J.

In the winter, the Wargo Nature Center rents snowshoes for those who want to explore the park in a colder season.

The Lino Lakes 10-mile bike loop is a true Minnesota experience

by Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking.com

Here it can feel like you are smack dab in the middle of northern Minnesota, especially while enjoying bike loops along the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes. A perfect place for your next bike vacation the Lino Lakes 10-bike loop and the many trail connections here are worth considering. One of nine Twin Cities Gateway communities, the Lino Lakes area supports a large Blue Heron rookery and hosts the annual Blue Heron Days Festival held in the middle of August. Regardless of when you visit, you are sure to see several species of wildlife to enhance your Minnesota experience while pedaling while biking here.

A true north experience!

The Lino Lakes bike loop is a true north experience

For the Lino Lakes 10-bike loop, the route travels clockwise and begins at the parking lot of the Hampton Inn. After pulling out from the hotel you will find a bike trail running parallel on the east side of Lake Drive. From there It’s a short distance before you are riding in the stunning Rice Creek Park Preserves. One of the largest preserves in the Twin Cities Area the Rice Creek Chain offers both paved and water trails. On the bike route, you are sure to see some of the most significant native wildlife habitat and water resources in the metro area.

The Lino Lakes Area is a family fun location.

Entering the trail system next to the Lino Lakes YMCA the trail circles the shoreline around Marshan Lake, before crossing over the Rice Creek, as it flows out of George Watch Lake. At the next trail T, the route takes a sharp left and runs parallel to the golf course road. After a sharp right curve and before the clubhouse a service road helps trail riders get over to the north shoreline of Reshanan Lake.

From a cottage community to the park it is an enjoyable ride

Passing the Reshanan Lake cottage community, soon Shadow Lake Drive disappears and trail riders are meandering past marshy areas with occasional patches of a forest while making their way to Centerville Lake. Now on E Street, at the boat landing, it’s a short distance along the service road here up to the beach area where you will find restrooms and a visitor center. Leaving the park take the trial to the entrance on Main Street. The Lino Lakes 10-bike loop heads north, but there is an option if you don’t mind adding a couple more miles. Consider taking the trails south along Main Street and visiting the charming little community of Centerville.

A few more options as the Lino Lakes 10-bike loop heads north

Wildlife viewing along the roads and trails here offers many opportunities.

Pedaling north on the trail parallel to Main Street you will cross Rice Creek again as it flows from Peltier Lake across the road to George Watch Lake. Here from the road look up to the northeast end of Lake Peltier and you can make out the Blue Heron Rookery. Soon you are passing the entrance to Wargo Nature Center. A place devoted to increasing the awareness and appreciation of natural and cultural resources. The center is located on a peninsula surrounded by George Watch Lake and offers activities, labs and equipment rental. For another outing, check out the available rental canoes and kayaks to experience the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes water trail.

Back in Lino Lakes for a cool beverage and fun

After a ride, many enjoy stopping in Lino Lakes for a cool beverage.

After crossing over 35W, on the wide shoulder, you are rolling back into Lino Lakes. As you turn onto Lake Drive consider stopping in at the Hammerhead Brewery before returning to the Hampton Inn. Back at the parking lot, check out the nearby eating establishments and plan another fun adventure in the Twin Cities Gateway Area.

Printable map and Q (cue)-sheet)

For a printable bike map of Lino Lakes click here

For a turn-by-turn, Q-sheet of Lino Lakes click here

Biking Around Lino Lakes Is A Short Trip North For Fun

by Andrew Ellis

When you’re in Lino Lakes it can feel like you’re smack dab in the middle of northern Minnesota. You’re pedaling down wide open roads that take you by lakes, farmland and scenery that can meet you with the horizon. Where roads with no shoulder offer trails or sidewalks that parallel the street to connect you to the vast Twin Cities Gateway trail system for your #nextbikeadventure. Enjoy the many options, including the Blue Heron Celebration in August, when visiting Lino Lakes:

Riding around Lino Lakes which has the second largest Blue Heron rookery in the state.

Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve

Easy to get to by bike from your hotel, an entire day here won’t be enough. The Park Reserve here offers seven lakes to make for an outdoor enthusiast feel like they are in heaven. Riding or hiking the trails around these lakes, amongst the prairies landscapes offers plenty of opportunities to get you in touch with natural. When not riding, you can also rent a canoe or kayak to paddle through the chain of lakes.

Wargo Nature Center

On your venture in Lino Lakes your first stop could be the Wargo Nature Center, which has plenty of programs for kids throughout the summer. After you ride down the scenic driveway, park your bike at the fish-shaped bike rack, next to the parking lot. Inside the visitors center take a look at the mapped hiking and biking routes. You can also rent a canoe here or view all the local critters that have been preserved and on display on the walls and shelves.

Another birding hotspot is in some of the open meadows that paved bike paths pass through the par

Another birding hotspot is in some of the open meadows that paved bike paths pass through the park.

Walk outside and you’ll see three entry ways to connecting trails that are mostly natural surface. The trails are very well maintained and wide enough to walk two abreast and pass others walking by. As you hike along you will be surrounded by the sounds and sights of nature. Along the trails you will see many kinds of trees and plants with plenty of birds chirping. You may even be lucky enough to see a little red fox ahead of you crossing the walkway.

There are also plenty of hand-drawn signs throughout the area that tell you more about the area and Minnesota’s natural history dating back to before the Ice Age. You can even step up and look out into wetlands at a couple dock stations along the shoreline. If you want to explore the wetlands more, you can check out a canoe or kayak back at the visitors center.

Blue Heron Rookery

Egrets and blue heron are also a common to see as you paddle along.

Egrets and blue heron are also a common to see as you paddle along.

A highlight to visiting this area of the Twin Cities Gateway is the Blue Heron Rookery. It’s the second largest heron rookery in the state, however it isn’t the exactly easiest to get to or see. You can catch glimpses of the island if you drive by some of the lake houses on the other side of the lake, or you use a canoe or kayak to get close to it. There is a no wake zone by the island, but you should be able to get a nice view of the island using field glasses or a zoom lens on your camera. For more information on the Peltier Island heron colony, visit the Facebook page.

Relax on the Beach, Swim, Bike, and More

You can also visit the main beach on Centerville Lake and go for a swim or just relax and let those rays give you a nice tan. There is also a little playground for kids, a beach volleyball area, and picnic tables here. You will also find plenty of paved trails leading in and out of here to help you get around the area, and one of them even leads to Chonomax Golf Course. The different lakes also have various public access points for fishing and boat launches.

HammerHeart Brewery

Stopping at the HammerHeart Brewery in Lino Lakes is always refreshing after a ride.

Whether you’re looking for a mid-day break or want to relax after a long day of exploring, there is nothing better than an ice cold beer at the Brewery here. Even better, the brews here are locally crafted and inspired by Norse and Celtic history, love, old world traditions. If you’re lucky enough to stop by on a Saturday there’s a good chance you’ll be able to get food from one of the various food truck they bring in to compliment their selection of brews.

Lino Lakes’ Blue Heron Days

Remember the Blue Heron Rockery? Well, by the middle of August the nests are all empty out on the island. However, the city of Lino Lakes who adopted the blue heron for their city logo many years ago has an annual event to celebrate the bird and its habitat. Perfect for the whole family the annual celebration features a parade, carnival, movie night, petting zoo, and more. This years event is scheduled for August 18, 19 & 20. For more information visit the city’s website about Blue Heron Days.

The celebration and parade in Lino Lakes is fun for the whole family.

The celebration and parade in Lino Lakes is fun for the whole family.

A part of Minnesota’s Twin Cities Gateway Community, Lino Lakes is located on the north side of Minneapolis and its easy to find your next bike adventure here.

Fishing Spots in the Twin Cities Gateway – By Bike

They say the best part of fishing is when your line is in the water. This is especially true if the lake or stream is close enough that you can ride your bike and fish more often. Here in the Twin Cities Gateway we found several opportunities to wet a line and catch some fish in Minnesota. So get your family and friends together, plan a route, and enjoy nature while fishing the shorelines in the these north Twin City Metro locations.

Fishing at the Coon Rapids Dam

At the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park you will find one of the most popular fishing spots in the Anoka County Area. Here, as the mighty Mississippi River flows over the dam, anglers can test their fishing tackle and luck. Fish to catch includes: Bass, Crappies, Carp, and more. With the recent high waters, a report  says anglers are catching Crappies using jigs and minnows. The shoreline hot spot is above the dam, in the back waters, near the bike trail.

The Coon Rapids Dam is a fishing hot spot in the Twin Cities Gateway.

The Coon Rapids Dam is a fishing hot spot in the Twin Cities Gateway.

A boat ramp is located behind the Visitor Center and there is no launching fee. However, there is a fee to enter the park unless you enter the park on your bike or walk. The Visitors Center also has some bait items available.

Fishing on Ham Lake

A shoreline fishing hot spot in the Twin Cities Gateway.

One of the many shoreline fishing hot spots in the Twin Cities Gateway.

Largemouth Bass brings most anglers to Ham Lake, even though the abundant population of small Northern Pike present in this lake can be frustrating. You will also find that the Bluegill (Sunfish) here are abundant and are usually biting, whereas the Crappies are hit or miss.

This lake is located east of Highway 65 and north of 153rd Street N.E. in the City of Ham Lake, Minnesota. If you don’t have a boat, you can head over to the city park where there is a fishing pier adjacent to the boat ramp that can be promising.

Two Fishing Options on the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes

Fishing on George Watch Lake

On the Chain,  just south of the city of Lino Lakes, is George Watch Lake which has Walleye, Sunfish, Largemouth Bass, Bullheads, and Catfish. And, if Northern Pike are your game fish of choice, reports have it that there are plenty of them and that they are of good size.

Using a canoe or kayak is another option for fishing the hot spots in the Twin Cities Gateway.

Using a canoe or kayak is another option for fishing the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes in the Twin Cities Gateway.

In the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Regional Park Reserve, operated by Anoka County, there is no boat access. However, canoe rentals are available at Wargo Nature Center. Anglers are allowed to fish from shore, but it may take a hike to reach some great sites. Fishing is also permitted from the shoreline along County Road 14. Another option, with the paved trails in the park, is to use a bike to get to other parts of the lake’s shoreline.

Fishing Peltier Lake

Across the road from Wargo Nature Center is another hot fishing spot on Peltier Lake. Here Northern Pike and Panfish are the primary target of most anglers fishing here. Walleye are present and Channel Catfish yearlings provide additional opportunities for anglers. Plus, Muskies are starting to migrating in from other lakes on the Rice Creek Chain.

This lake has good shore fishing facilities. The County has a fishing pier in the southwest corner of the lake near the boat access. Anglers often fish from the shoreline of County Road 14 near the connection with Centerville Lake. The most popular shore fishing spot may be on both sides of the dam, both upstream and in the pool downstream.

Have fun and keep your line wet!