101,337 annual visits
19,413 overnight visits
The rich river bottom forests along the Red and Red Lake rivers provide a diversity of plant life and habitat for many animals. Mammals found here include raccoon, river otter, gray and red squirrels and white-tailed deer. The unique riverine ecosystem includes channel catfish, lake sturgeon, and other fish and aquatic life. The river bottom forests, remnant prairies and the rivers themselves are rare habitats for birds and other fauna. The Red River of the North is located on an especially important migratory route for may species of birds. The recreation area, therefore, provides valuable habitat for migrant, breeding and resident birds and wildlife. The natural habitat along the river banks provides permanent and temporary homes for songbirds, hawks, bald eagles and owls. Urban birds found within the recreation area include Canadian geese, great blue herons, song sparrows, chipping sparrows and dark-eyed juncos. Migrant perching birds and songbirds that are seen in large numbers include Nashville warbler, black-throated green warbler, American redstart, scarlet tanager and swamp sparrow.
Ten thousand years ago, Glacial Lake Agassiz was at its largest size and covered 135,000 square miles of eastern North Dakota, northwestern Minnesota and southern Manitoba. Sediment from the lake created an incredibly flat piece of land, the Red River Valley, that stretches 17,000 square miles. The unchanging flat topography of the Red River Valley is a major factor in the river's propensity to flood. Significant floods of the recent past include the floods of 1897, 1950, 1979 and 1997. Damage estimates of the 1950 flood totaled $100 million and caused nearly 100,000 people to evacuate their homes. The 1997 flood inundated 99 percent of the homes in East Grand Forks. Damage estimates for the Grand Forks and East Grand Forks area ranged from $1 billion to $1.5 billion. Following the flood, volunteers, local groups, state and federal agencies poured into the area to provide flood relief. Their efforts focused on flood recovery and a re-evaluation of the existing flood protection system. Through state and federal dollars, approximately 500 properties within the floodway were acquired and removed. This left space between the flood levees and the Red and Red Lake rivers for a 1,200-acre recreational greenway.
Bedrock in the area consists of Cretaceous, Ordovician and Jurassic sedimentary bedrock. The bedrock is overlain by 200-400 feet of fluvial glacial drift. The area just outside the boundaries of the Recreation Area is classified as Lacustrine sedimentation, formed by Glacial Lake Agassiz.
Three of North America's ecological regions or biomes converge in Minnesota and can be seen within a two-hour drive from Red River Recreation Area. The presence of these three biomes (prairie parklands, deciduous forest and coniferous forest) in one non-mountainous state is unusual and accounts for the diversity of ecological communities in Minnesota. The western boundary of the Red River Recreation Area is the Red River of the North. The boundary on the east follows the eastern limits of continuous tall grass prairie pre-settlement vegetation. Portions of till plain are included with the boundaries. At the south end, the boundary follows the southern end of the till plain and Glacial Lake Agassiz.