The General Mills Nature Preserve is located on what was once the corporate headquarters for General Mills, one of the world's largest food companies. The multinational corporation donated 27 acres at the northwestern corner of their Golden Valley, Minnesota property for the nature preserve. The preserve located 10 minutes from downtown Minneapolis is a great place for short winter hikes, although the .5-mile trail connects to the 50-mile-long City of Golden Valley trail system for longer treks when the weather is fair.
The prairie site, which features three distinct habitats, was officially dedicated on July 11, 2007. Follow the well-maintained path over a footbridge through floodplain forestlands -- the first habitat -- to a shallow marsh -- the second habitat -- and wet meadow -- the third environ. You’ll see plenty of birds and squirrels and evidence of smaller critters such as mice and rabbits. Whitetail deer have been seen in the area. We were in search of the Northern Shrike, a predatory songbird that was said to hang out in General Mills Nature Preserve during the winter months.
We observed thorn bushes, one of the more than fifty different native plants found at the preserve. Bushes and trees with thorns are important for the Northern Shrike because the bird impales its prey on the thorns before eating. “Butcher bird” is a nickname of the shrike and many a bird book show drawings of the bird sitting on a thorny branch with a skewered grasshopper or field mouse.
General Mills Nature Preserve was named as one of the top Twin Cities birding hotspots and it was noted that the preserve offered, “Reliable views of Northern Shrike in the winter, plus many migrating songbirds in the spring and fall.”
Directions: From the intersection of Highway 169 and Highway 55, drive east to Boone Avenue and turn right (south.) At Betty Crocker drive, turn right (west) and watch for a footbridge on your right. After the footbridge, turn left into the General Mills employee parking lot, which is monitored by security cameras. Park and walk back to the bridge where you will begin your adventure into this bit of prairie preserved in an urban -- or suburban -- environment.
Twin Cities Hiking, Minneapolis Hiking, Twin Cities Birding
9201 Olson Memorial Highway
Golden Valley, MN