Froland Waterfowl Production Area Interpretive Trail winds around several wetlands through scenic restored prairie and oak savanna in west-central Minnesota. An accessible trail leads to an observation platform overlooking a large wetland.
Froland Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) is one of 245 WPAs in the Morris Wetland Management District (WMA). WPA's are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They are purchased by the Federal government to provide breeding habitat for migratory birds, especially waterfowl. Every dollar spent for the purchase of a federal migratory bird (duck) stamp goes directly toward the acquisition of waterfowl habitat.
Froland WPA was named for the previous landowner who sold the land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Froland WPA is located in Pope County, Minnesota, 3 miles south of the town of Starbuck, bordered on the east by Minnesota Highway 29 and on the north by County Road 18. Froland WPA is 151 acres. The Froland WPA Interpretive Trail winds around several wetlands and through scenic restored prairie, wetlands, and oak savanna.
The 1.7 mile trail was designed to expose users to a variety of native habitat types historically found in west-central Minnesota. The prairie consists of both remnant native prairie and prairie restored from cropland. This recently enhanced trail harbors a new parking lot and interpretive panels at the trail head, a new observation platform and handicapped accessible spotting scope overlooking a large wetland, and two new benches for rest and relaxation along the way.
The wood duck houses lining the wetlands were installed by a local Boy Scout troop. The trail is handicap accessible from the parking area to the observation platform, while the remainder is mowed single track. This trail provides access to a large portion of Froland WPA and features excellent opportunities for bird watching, nature observation and photography, hunting, and a place to just stretch out your legs and get some exercise.
On the east side of Highway 29, across from the entrance to the east parking lot, is a 5-mile long hiking and biking trail that leads from the town of Starbuck to Glacial Lakes State Park. This bike trail is also the site of the annual Minnewaska 10 K race.
The town of Starbuck is located on the west shore of Lake Minnewaska, which provides lodging and recreation of all types including boating, skiing, fishing and other water sports. Glacial Lakes State Park offers plenty of camping sites along with additional hiking and cross country ski trails and other recreational opportunities. The trail can be used for cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter though it is not groomed.
The original 1-mile long hiking trail was constructed in 1971 in cooperation with the Glacial Ridge Development Association and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Froland WPA is a popular area for consumptive and non-consumptive public use. In 2010, the trail was enhanced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to increase accessibility and viewing opportunities. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Morris WMD is responsible for management of the WPA and trail.
Several dedicated local volunteers assist with maintenance, trash removal, and keeping the trail mowed. Volunteers and Youth Conservation Corps members also assist with the removal of common buckthorn, an invasive, exotic tree. Future plans for the trail include the installation of interpretive signs and the development of an interpretive brochure.
Some common wildlife observed at Froland WPA include mallard, blue-winged teal, northern shoveler, redhead, Canada goose, wood duck, red-tailed hawk, northern harrier, ring-necked pheasant, mourning dove, yellow-headed blackbird, red-winged blackbird, tree swallow, barn swallow, western meadowlark, bobolink, American white pelican, pied-billed grebe, white-tailed deer, gopher, ground squirrels, and muskrat.
Morris WMD actively manages habitat at Froland WPA using prescribed burning and haying to simulate natural cycles of disturbance, and control of exotic vegetation. The native prairie at Froland WPA is also used as a site for prairie seed harvest, which is then used to restore other prairies.
The District office is located near the town of Morris, 20 miles west of Froland WPA on Stevens County Road 10 (Pope CR 18, on the north side of Froland WPA, becomes Stevens CR 10).
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Morris Wetland Management District 43875 230th Street Morris, MN 56267 Phone: 320-589-4971 Website: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/Morris/