Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Bloomington Education and Visitor Center and Refuge Headquarters
3815 American Blvd E
Bloomington, MN 55425-1659

Homeschool classesField tripsGetting there

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1976 to provide habitat for a large number of migratory waterfowl, fish, and other wildlife species threatened by commercial and industrial development, and to provide environmental education, wildlife recreational opportunities, and interpretive programming for Twin Cities residents.

The refuge is part of a corridor of land and water stretching nearly 70 miles along the Minnesota River, from Bloomington to Henderson, Minnesota. Comprised of more than 14,000 acres, the refuge has multiple units, offering a variety of free outdoor recreational experiences for individuals and families. (See map.) Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge also manages a 14 county Wetland Management District.

The refuge ranges from urban to rural providing a unique opportunity to enjoy wildlife related recreation in the shadows of skyscrapers and grain elevators. The refuge provides valuable habitat for a diversity of waterfowl and other migratory birds, fish, and resident wildlife. It's a place where coyotes, bald eagles, prothonotary warblers, and trout live next door to more than three million people.

Phone: 952-854-5900
Email: minnesotavalley(at)fws.gov

Homeschool classes

Due to continued staff shortages, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is unable to continue their popular monthly homeschool programs. Homeschool parents may request training to join MVNWR's Partner Teacher program. Partner Teachers are provided with a curriculum, access to the classrooms and teaching materials and then are scheduled to bring their group on their own to self-teach their chosen curriculum. Interested individuals should either email or call Alaina Vouaux at 952-858-0715 or alaina_vouaux(at)fws.gov to find out more about scheduling training sessions.

Homeschool programs formerly met on the third Wednesday of September, November, January, March and May (every other month during the school year).

Lil’ Biologist was a free program for children in grades 4 through 6 (typically ages 9 through 12 years) designed to help homeschooled children learn about and appreciate nature through curriculum-based learning activities. Lil’ Biologists explore and learn about nature in-depth as they record their observations in their own nature journal.

Lil' Naturalist was a free program for children in preschool through 3rd grade (typically ages 3 through 9 years) designed to help children learn about and appreciate nature through activities including a nature talk, hike, and art project!

Maximum class size: 30 students

Target grade level: preschool through 3rd grade and 4th through 6th grade

Public programs

Staff-led programs help visitors learn more about the wildlife and habitats behind the landscape. Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge provides a variety of public programs throughout the year including ...

  • Hike with a Ranger
    Accompany park rangers while they make wildlife observations, collect nature phenology data, and do light trail maintenance along refuge trails. Participants should bring along a water bottle and a snack. Insect repellant and hiking shoes are recommended. Children ages 14 and up may hike without a chaperone.
  • Bird Watching Trek
    Bring your binoculars and a field guide (and dress for the weather). Look for flocks of migratory songbirds, raptors, and waterfowl including trumpeter and tundra swans, dark-eyed juncos and flocks of cedar waxwings and American robins.
  • Watching Wildlife
    Master the use of binoculars and field guides at these family friendly workshops. Learn how to explore the nocturnal wildlife world during Wildlife After Dark. Discover ways to find amazing wildlife habitat in the middle of the city at Watching Wildlife in Your Backyard.

Programs and events are free, geared for youth and adults and provide a range of opportunities that maximize first-hand experiences along the river and trails in the refuge.

For more information, visit fws.gov/refuge/Minnesota_Valley/Events.html.

Self-led groups

Self-led groups are welcome to visit and explore the refuge. Each self-led group has the freedom to develop their own programs to suit individual needs or use one developed by refuge staff.

The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge offers several interactive activity options such as exhibit and outdoor scavenger hunts, explorer packs, and self-led hikes. Library Learning Trunks may be checked out from the library at the Bloomington Visitor Center.

Both Education and Visitor Centers have explorer backpacks available free of charge for use by self-led groups and the general public. Backpacks vary in content at each center to coordinate with the habitat and wildlife found on that particular area of the Refuge. In addition, both education and visitors centers have scavenger hunts and wildlife sign checklists that can also be checked out.

All exhibit areas and refuge trails at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge are available to self-led groups, but classroom priority is given to Refuge Partner Schools and Partner Teachers.

Registration: To avoid conflicts with other education programs, please call Judy Geck, Visitor Services Specialist, at 952-858-0731 at least 1 week before you plan to visit the refuge.

Refuge staff are happy to provide guidance and help you choose activities that meet your field trip goals, but Self-led groups are not led by refuge staff. All group leaders need to be prepared to manage and lead their own groups.

For more information, contact Judy Geck, Visitor Services Specialist at judy_geck(at)fws.gov or 952-858-0731 or visit fws.gov/refuge/Minnesota_Valley/visit/for_educators.html and fws.gov/refuge/Minnesota_Valley/visit/just_for_kids.html.

Getting there

Hiawatha Light Rail: Depart at the American Blvd-34th Ave Station. Proceed east on American Blvd East for ¼ mile to the entrance on the right.

Bus: Routes 5, 54, 415, 440, 441, 442, 444, 445, 515, 538, 539, 540, and 542. Depart at the Mall of America, proceed north on 24th Avenue for 2 blocks. Proceed east on American Blvd E for 1 mile to the entrance on the right.

Driving: From Interstate 494 exit 34th Avenue and head south. Proceed east on American Blvd East for ¼ mile to the entrance on the right.

Information subject to change. Please check with Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge for the most current information. Last updated on Wed, Sep 21, 2016.