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Outdoor Notes

Fort Ridgely State Park campground, horse camp and trails temporarily closed due to flooding

Effective immediately, the campgrounds, horse camp and trails at Fort Ridgely State Park near Fairfax have been closed due to flooding, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Joanne Svendsen, assistant park manager, said once flood waters recede, park staff will evaluate the impact of flooding. "We hope the campgrounds and horse camp are not closed for long, but much will depend on the weather and condition of the grounds," Svendsen said.

Campers with reservations at the park through June 25 have been contacted and given refunds. Additional campers will be notified if the park is closed beyond that date.

The Fort Ridgely golf course, chalet and historic site remain open.

The park is located off state Highway 4, 6 miles south of Fairfax or 12 miles north of Sleepy Eye.

DNR to give temporary flexibility to enact slow no-wake zones

Due to recent heavy rains and high water across the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is giving counties, cities and townships more authority to enact ordinances to address high water in their area.

Municipalities may enact an up to 30-day emergency slow no-wake restriction on a lake or river.

"No-wake zones protect property from erosion and wake action and keep the public safe on the water," said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist.

Prior to this order, local units of government could only enact an emergency five-day water restriction.

People need to be especially cautious right now around high water; making sure they wear life jackets and are aware of local flooding conditions.

For the emergency restrictions to take effect, cities, counties and townships must follow a series of steps:

The body of water must reach a level where property damage is expected.

The municipality may set slow no-wake area at 150, 300 or 600 feet from shore or the entire body of water.

If a body of water is located in more than one municipality, all government units must approve identical restrictions, unless the impacted area is within one municipality.

The DNR must be notified about the restrictions.

Citizens must also be notified about the ordinance through their website, news releases and signs posted at public accesses.

Slow no-wake will be lifted once water body has fallen to a lower level set by the municipality for three consecutive days.

DNR warning: Waters dangerously high and fast

Following recent rains across the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging boaters, paddlers and swimmers to think twice before heading out on the water right now.

People must be especially cautious around high water; making sure they wear a life jacket and are aware of local flooding conditions and alerts. People also should not venture into flooded areas.

"Rivers, lakes and streams around Minnesota are extremely swollen and that water is cooler than normal," said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist. Water temperatures around the metro are hovering around 70 degrees, which is 5-10 degrees colder than normal.

"Stream and river currents are also extremely strong and moving fast, which many boaters and swimmers are not used to," Owens said.

Boaters should also be aware that there's more debris in the water. That includes both natural and man-made objects that have been swept into the river.

"Debris will often float just at or below the surface," Owens said. "Hitting a log at high speed could result in damage to boats or serious injuries."

So far this year, three people have died in boating accidents compared to five this time last year.

A no-wake zone is currently in effect on rivers and lakes around the metro, including the St. Croix River from Taylors Falls to Prescott, Prior Lake and Lake Minnetonka. The Minneapolis locks on the Mississippi River are closed to both recreational and commercial traffic.

Cuyuna Country SRA mountain bike trails remain open during trailhead construction

Construction of the new trailhead is underway at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area (SRA) in Ironton (north of Brainerd). Most of the recreation area will remain open throughout the construction season, however the Pennington Mine Lake public water access, Huntington Mine Lake carry-in canoe access and the road to Miner's Mountain Overlook will be closed temporarily for visitor safety.

Signs will be posted and trail users will be directed to the Croft Mine parking area.

"There will be some inconvenience this summer, but the end product will be worth it," said SRA manager Steve Weber.

The new facility will provide 96 additional parking spots, changing stations, picnic shelter, vault toilet and new walkway with waterfront access to Huntington Mine Lake. The project is expected to take 8-10 weeks, and managers are optimistic the new facility will be open for use before Labor Day Weekend.

The 25-mile mountain bike trail system will remain open throughout construction, as will the Yawkey trailhead area, the paved Cuyuna Lakes State Trail and the campground.

The SRA will also be getting three yurts this summer. Yurts are round tents set on wooden platforms and furnished with bunk beds, tables, chairs and a wood stove. The yurts, each of which will sleep up to six people, are being built on the west side of the Yawkey Mine Lake. The yurt location is northeast of the existing campground, which has 25 first-come, first-served campsites and a group camp, with showers and flush toilets typically available from April through October.

Funding for the new facilities is from bonding and the Park and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and rails of regional or statewide significance.

Heavy rains prompt closures of some OHV trails and state forest roads

Heavy rains in portions of northern Minnesota have prompted the closure of some off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails and state forest roads, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

Some forest roads and OHV trails are flooded, are unstable due to soil saturation or have washed out in sections, so several have been temporarily closed to the public and signed at entry points.

Kabetogema, Koochiching, Land O'Lakes and St. Croix state forests are some of the impacted areas.

State forest road and trail users should check "Current Conditions" on the DNR website before traveling. Road and trail closing information will be updated as conditions change.

"By checking the conditions online, trails users should be able to find alternative locations where they can still get out to enjoy the trails," said Joe Alberio, a district supervisor for the DNR's Parks and Trails Division. "The road and trail closures will be lifted as soon as conditions allow and repairs are made, and we ask everyone to ride responsibly wherever they are."

Franz Jevne State Park temporarily closed due to flooding

Franz Jevne State Park, near the Minnesota-Canada border, is closed temporarily due to flooding along the Rainy River, the Department of Natural Resources said.

Blue Mounds State Park temporarily closes due to storm damage

Effective immediately, Blue Mounds State Park, in southwestern Minnesota, has been closed due to flood damage from recent storms and will remain closed until further notice, according to the Department of Natural Resources. All camping reservations at the park are being canceled through July 13.

"We decided it was in the best interest of our visitors to close the park until repairs could be made and services restored," said Kathy Dummer, southern region operations manager for the DNR's Parks and Trails Division. "We want their experience at the park to be a good one."

The park has received more than 11 inches of rain since June 14. Rapidly rising waters and accompanying debris in Blue Mounds Creek caused damage to many areas of the park, including roads, trails, bison fence and the spillway connected to the dam on Lower Mound Lake. Heavy flows of surface water caused additional damage.

In spite of the damage, no visitors to the park were injured or evacuated. The park's bison herd weathered the storms and remains in good health.

DNR engineers have visited the scene and are determining a plan to address damage to roadways, trails and the spillway/dam. Crews with Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa are assisting with cleanup.

Dummer said campers with reservations at the park have been notified and are being offered refunds or transfer of reservations to another Minnesota state park.

Blue Mounds State Park is located 40 minutes east of Sioux Falls off Interstate 90 and 3 ½ hours southwest of Minneapolis, near the city of Luverne.

The park is known for its bison herd, Sioux quartzite cliffs rising 100 feet from the plains and a sea of prairie grasses and flowers. The park is a favorite for birdwatchers who want to see nesting blue grosbeaks and other birds. Camping and rock climbing are popular activities at the park.

Twins offer free hat, discounted tickets through partnership with DNR

Kids and adults who have a 2014 Minnesota hunting or fishing license can still receive a free blaze orange and camouflage Twins logo baseball cap when they buy a discounted Minnesota Twins ticket online.

The promotion, which started in May, includes the Thursday, June 19, game against the Chicago White Sox. It continues on Saturday, Aug. 16, against the Kansas City Royals; on Sunday, Sept. 7, against the Los Angeles Angels; and on Saturday, Sept. 20, against the Cleveland Indians.

Discounted ticket prices are $16. Ticket buyers pick up their cap at the game. Those who want to buy discount tickets should go online and enter the transaction number, which is printed on the license. The DNR Twins Web page provides ticket buying instructions and shows the location of the transaction number.

A limited number of tickets are available for each game and will be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. The offer is available only through the DNR Twins Web page.

Minnesota 2014 fishing and hunting licenses can be purchased and printed online or from any DNR license agent.

Roadsides are important habitat for pollinators and pheasants

Delaying roadside mowing until Aug. 1 benefits pheasants, songbirds, pollinators and more, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"With a growing concern for pollinators, we all need to do our part to protect wildflower habitat," said Carmelita Nelson, DNR prairie grassland coordinator. "That's why we urge owners of land along Minnesota roads and highways to avoid mowing or otherwise disturbing the roadside vegetation until after Aug. 1 or even until the fall to provide flowers for bees and nesting cover for birds."

Roadsides with native wildflowers are especially beneficial to native bees. Research has shown that the width of the roadside and the proximity to traffic does not matter to bees. Minnesota bee keepers place a high value on roadside wildflowers. The loss of habitat is one of the critical causes of the decline of both wild bees and honeybees.

Roadsides also provide more than 500,000 acres of nesting areas in the pheasant range of southern and western Minnesota. Roadside habitat is especially important in intensively row cropped regions where there is little other grassland available.

"After a difficult winter and wet spring, we are concerned about pheasant nesting this year," said Scott Roemhildt, DNR information officer. "In spite of the weather, pheasant nesting is pretty much on a typical schedule."

Most pheasant hens are currently sitting on nests and will hatch their broods in mid- to late June. A nesting hen lays eggs at a rate of about one per day. Nests contain an average of 12 eggs. The incubation period is 23 days and starts after all eggs have been laid. The hen remains on the nest, leaving only briefly to feed. If the nest is destroyed, the hen will repeatedly nest until she is successful in hatching a clutch, although re-nesting clutches have fewer eggs.

The peak hatch time for pheasants (about 60 percent) is the third week in June, but depending on the weather there are still a lot of birds nesting in early July. Hens will make from one to four attempts at nesting during the spring nesting season, but will only hatch one brood per year.

Chicks need to be at least two to three weeks old to have any chance of escape from mowers. By Aug. 1 the reproductive season is over for most pheasant with the exception of a few late re-nesting attempts.

In Minnesota, between one-fourth and one-third of pheasants are hatched in roadsides. Roadsides are also important habitat to teal, mallards, gray partridge, many grassland songbirds, frogs and turtles.

The way roadsides are managed can influence the abundance of local wildlife populations. Roadsides should also be protected from burning, crop tillage, grazing, blanket spraying of herbicides and vehicle encroachment during these months. At sites where noxious weeds are a problem, it is recommended that landowners use spot mowing or spraying for treatment.