Union Slough is all that remains of a pre-glacial riverbed. “Union Slough” stands for the connection, or union, of the east fork of the Des Moines River and the Blue Earth River. Before European settlement, the area was so level that the wind determined which way the slough flowed.
Through continuous management practices, endangered northern tall grass prairie and prairie pothole ecosystems continue to provide refuge and breeding grounds for migratory birds and other wildlife.
Diverse upland areas contain native plants such as Bluestems, Gramas, Indian grass, Coneflower, Butterfly milkweed, and Leadplant. Prairie bird species to look for include Bobolink, Dickcissel, Western Meadowlark, Sedge Wren, and Red-wing Blackbird. A mixed woodland area provides shelter for Robins, Bluejays, Woodpecker, Wood Duck and Turkey. Abundant in the spring are Lesser Scaup and Tennessee Warbler. Spring and fall finds Canada Geese, Blue-wing Teal, Pheasant, and Yellow-rumped Warbler abundant. Fall is an exciting time with Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Franklins Gull and Dark-eyed Junco. Spring, summer and fall species include Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, Gray Partridge, Sora Rail, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, and Stilt sandpiper. The Trumpeter Swan has been successfully reintroduced with two nesting pairs. This is an excellent site for viewing Bald Eagles in the winter.
A 4.5 mile wildlife drive is available for a short time after breeding season. Usually August 1st through mid September, but is subject to change. All refuge parking lots are open year round for observation. An overlook/observation platform for pedestrian use is available year round. Persons with disabilities have vehicle access. For more freedom, the south unit (south of 320th street) can be used from sunrise to sunset. This is an excellent hunting location.
Union Slough offers special programming in April, May, and October and is open to the public. Activities include bird walks, speakers, displays and an auto tour route. Call for dates.
Driving Directions and other Information
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