Lac qui Parle WMA - Marsh Dam area

Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Unit (WMA)
Chippewa, Swift, Big Stone, and Lack qui Parle Counties
24,802.61 acres; native prairie, wetland basins, two large lakes (Lac qui Parle and Marsh)

Focus on: Marsh Lake Dam area, SW of Appleton, Swift county, MN

Marsh Lake is part of a chain of lakes that lie along the upper Minnesota River. It is home to the largest American White Pelican rookery in Minnesota, one of just two nesting colonies in the state. Birds traveling through the area during migration include Tundra Swans, Snow Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese and Sandhill Cranes. The lake contains many species of fish.

We had hoped to drive to the dam (having dual interests in our party of engineering and nature) but the current status of the road leading to it was unclear. There was only sparse information on the area, some of it seemed conflicting, and information on Google Maps for the area was non-existent or very old. So we set out to explore.

Route Taken from Appleton, MN - heading south into the WMA
From the Swift County Fair Grounds in Appleton, MN, travel County Road 51 west and south. Instead of following County Road 51 when it heads west along 95th St SW, continue south (straight) on 240th Ave SW.

100th St SW - which, on maps, appears to be a road that heads west from 240th Ave SW - is closed permanently (an update on this situation has been submitted to Google Maps so how it appears on that site may change at some point). The turn off for that road is now a parking area and one can either hike or bike along the old road 1.75 miles to the old north-side old parking area for the dam.

240th Ave SW continues south (past the old 100ths St SW parking area) till it bends to the west as it approaches a railroad track. Shortly after, one can either go a little further west to a parking area or take a sharp turn south onto 115th St SW which crosses the railroad track. Almost a mile later, there is another parking area on the north side of the road. Just past that parking area, the road intersects MN-119. At this point, we chose to turn around and take the same route back through the WMA and towards Appleton.

The parking lot at the old 100th St SW road was clear and not overgrown. The other two parking lots were mostly overgrown as I don't think they're used much outside of hunting season. You could park there but one should be prepared for ticks if you get out of the car. There were no bathrooms in the area we visited. There was no shoulder on the road but very little traffic so we traveled as slowly as we liked and occasionally stopped for closer looks at something.

I've since found information that indicates there may be an alternate way to get to the Dam from the north. I wasn't aware of this before our visit but I'll quote here what I found:

North access to the Marsh Lake Dam: From Hwy 59/7 in Appleton, go south on Hwy 119, turn west (right) onto Hwy 51/90th St SW. Stay on Hwy 51 until the pavement ends, continue going west on 95th St SW for 0.5 miles then take a left onto 255th Ave SW. NOTE: A section of 255th Ave is a new road and Google maps does not yet show this section that connects to the old portion of 100th.

One can also walk in to the dam from the south in Lac qui Parle County. Find info on that HERE. You essentially come upon the dam almost immediately upon parking the car.


Lac qui Parle State Park is 15 miles* to the SE
Big Stone NWR is 10-15 miles* to the NW
Plover Prairie SNA is 8 miles* to the west
*mileages are from the dam as the crow flies, it would be longer by car as one nagivates country roads around the lakes and river.


June 6, 2023; (90 degrees, skies hazy with Canadian wildfire smoke)
Finding we could not drive to the dam (via 100th St SW), we decided against hiking to it. (Too far, too hot, not kitted for ticks). But we enjoyed a drive along the back roads through the WMA taking the route described above. Notable observations: Bobolinks, Eastern Kingbirds, Red Saddlebags Dragonflies, lots of Yellow Warblers.

Observations submitted to iNat:
25 species: birds - 11; insects - 3; spider - 1; plants - 10

Useful links

MN DNR: Lac qui Parle WMA: Main Unit
eBird Hotspot reports: eBird Hotspot reports: Marsh Lake Dam; Swift Co (northern side)
eBird Checklist: Marsh Lake Dam; Swift Co (northern side)
eBird Hotspot reports: Marsh Lake Dam; Lac qui Parle Co (southern side)
eBird Checklist: Marsh Lake Dam; Lac qui Parle Co (southern side)
iNat: observations in a bounding box for the area discussed
Minnesota River Virtual Tour: Marsh Lake
MN River Valley National Scenic Byway: Marsh Lake Dam
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and MN DNR: Marsh Lake Habitat Enhancement Project
John A. Weeks III website: Marsh Lake Dam

Julkaistu heinäkuu 2, 2023 03:28 AP. käyttäjältä mmmiller mmmiller


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