Park Info

Image of Lake Maria State Park

Quick stats

1,756 acres
78,098 annual visits
7,494 overnight visits

Naturalist

Although there is no full-time naturalist on staff, programs are available year-round.

Wildlife

The marshes, potholes, and lakes provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Approximately 205 different species of birds have been reported living in, or passing through on seasonal migrations. Visitors have seen bald eagles, Cooper's hawk, Franklin's gull, osprey, common egret, common loon, trumpeter swans, great blue heron, marsh hawk, and goldfinch. Owl species include the screech, great-horned, snowy, and barred.

Mammals include shrews, bats, moles, rabbits, woodchucks, red and grey squirrels, pocket gophers, beaver, mice, fisher, muskrats, mink, striped skunk, red fox, and white-tailed deer.

History

The Big Woods was a forest that once occupied 3,030 square miles in south-central Minnesota. The forest was comprised of maple, basswood, white and red elm, red oak, tamarack, and red cedar on the banks of numerous lakes. The trees were so thick that sunlight couldn't penetrate to the forest floor in some spots. French explorers called the forest "Bois Grand" or "Bois Fort." Later, settlers altered the name to the "Big Woods." Today, farms, towns, suburbs, and industry have replaced much of the Big Woods. Fortunately, Lake Maria State Park retains a remnant of the grandness of the original Big Woods.

Geology

The park lies in the St. Croix Moraine which was formed during the last glacier, the Wisconsin Age. The bedrock of the park is mainly granite covered by several feet of rock debris. Three different glaciers carved the landscape. The first glacier came about one million years ago; the last glacier came about 10,000 years ago. The ice brought two types of soil: red, sandy till from around Lake Superior and clay and loam (sand, clay, silt, and organic matter) from the Red River Valley.

Landscape

Lake Maria State Park is located at the northern edge of the Big Woods. This region is characterized by rough, wooded terrain and terminal moraine. The moraine consists of an accumulation of boulders, stone, and other debris left by a glacier that melted 10,000 years ago.