Online reservations for a new Blue Mounds State Park prairie and bison tour in southwestern Minnesota will be available June 15, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Reservations are good for tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Labor Day. The tour vehicle can carry 12 passengers, with one space able to accommodate a wheelchair.
“This is an exciting addition to Blue Mounds State Park,” said park manager Chris Ingebretsen. “This enables park visitors to get unique views of our endangered ecosystem – native prairie. They will also learn more about the park’s bison herd.”
The herd of about 100 bison at Blue Mounds State Park is a part of the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd, managed by the DNR and Minnesota Zoo. The partners are working together to preserve American plains bison and plan to grow the herd. The goal is a 500-animal herd at multiple locations. Genetic testing of the herd from 2011-2014 found them largely free of any genetic material that would have come from cross-breeding with cattle. Less than 1 percent of all American plains bison tested so far have been found free of cattle genes.
Park guests on the tour will ride in an open sided vehicle and will be guided by a DNR naturalist who will explain the park’s distinctive features and the bison herd.
“In addition to the bison herd, our guests will learn more about native prairie and its value,” said DNR regional naturalist Alexander Watson. “Blue Mounds State Park is rich in unique landscapes, and we’re really happy to offer our guests this experience.”
The tours are 90 minutes long and can be reserved online at the DNR website. Tours for ages 13 and up cost $10, while children aged 4-12 cost $6. Children under age 4 are not allowed on the tour for safety reasons.
A vehicle permit is required to enter all Minnesota state parks, which cost $7/day or $35/year. Other tour information can be found at mndnr.gov/bluemounds.
The prairie and bison tour is made possible with funding from the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund and the Minnesota Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment.