Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR

Touch the Sky Prairie Unit








U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service




The Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge consists of a mix of

  • 41 privately-owned easements that are not open to the public
  • 8 units owned by the refuge system that are open to the public, six of which are in Minnesota.
  • 9 units owned by The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, all of which are open to the public.


Touch the Sky Prairie Unit is the only unit that in 2014 had maintained trails and visitor kiosks with interpretive signs.


















Printable Map(s) with GPS coordinates




North Section

  Printable map   Printable map  

Central Section


South Section

  Printable map   Printable map  



927 acres




North Parking
N43 44.835, W96 16.041

Southeast Parking
N43 43.986, W96 16.706

Southwest Parking
N43 43.962, W96 17.233


Driving Directions

  Area and County  

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          Rock County  
          Southwest Minnesota  

Hiking Trails


There are mowed trails throughout the site.






Ecological Classification

  Ecological Classification  
  Ecological Province    

Prairie Parkland Province

  Ecological Section    

North Central Glaciated Plains

  Ecological Subsection    

Inner Coteau

  Land Type Association    

Blue Mounds

Trosky Till Plain


Native Plant Communities*


Crystalline Bedrock Outcrop (Prairie): Sioux Quartzite Subtype

Mesic Prairie (Southern)

  * Source: The Minnesota Biological Survey, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Ecological Resources      

Natural Features







Visitor Photos

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North Section



    Touch the Sky Prairie, north section      

National Wildlife Refuge Sign

    Touch the Sky Prairie, north section      

Mesic Prairie (Southern)

    Touch the Sky Prairie, north section   Touch the Sky Prairie, north section  

Crystalline Bedrock Outcrop (Prairie): Sioux Quartzite Subtype

    Touch the Sky Prairie, north section      

Cattail Marsh

    Touch the Sky Prairie, north section      

Central Section



    Touch the Sky Prairie, central section   Touch the Sky Prairie, central section  

Commemorative Marker

    Touch the Sky Prairie, central section      

Mesic Prairie (Southern)

    Touch the Sky Prairie, central section   Touch the Sky Prairie, central section  

Crystalline Bedrock Outcrop (Prairie): Sioux Quartzite Subtype

    Touch the Sky Prairie, central section   Touch the Sky Prairie, central section  

Other Prairie

    Touch the Sky Prairie, central section      

Beaver Creek

    Touch the Sky Prairie, central section      

South Section



    Touch the Sky Prairie, south section   Touch the Sky Prairie, south section  

Mesic Prairie (Southern)

    Touch the Sky Prairie, south section      

Intermittent Stream

    Touch the Sky Prairie, south section   Touch the Sky Prairie, south section  






Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Touch the Sky Prairie
Jacob Job

Oct 24, 2019

Drone footage of Touch the Sky Prairie and surrounding farmland in southwestern Minnesota. Audio is from the dawn chorus earlier that day.

  Touch the Sky Prairie Amphibians
Jacob Job

Oct 24, 2019

The sounds of various amphibians heard during the spring at Touch the Sky Prairie in Minnesota.

  Touch The Sky Prairie
Bradley Herreid

Published on May 5, 2013

Spring morning at Touch The Sky Prairie

  Brandenburg Prairie Foundation: Touch the Sky Prairie

Uploaded on Nov 17, 2011

This is a stroll through The Touch the Sky Prairie near Blue Mounds State Park in Luverne, MN. This 1000 acre prairie preserve was purchased in partnership between The Brandenburg Prairie Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999. More information can be found at

©Anthony Brandenburg




Visitor Sightings

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Six bird species with conservation status in Minnesota have been seen here:


Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

Henslow’s Sparrow (Centronyx henslowii)

Special Concern

Franklin’s Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan)

Greater Prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido)

Purple Martin (Progne subis)

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)


eBird Field Checklist – Touch the Sky Prairie NWR

eBird Field Checklist – Touch the Sky Prairie--Rd 68


American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)

Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida)

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)

Dickcissel (Spiza americana)

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)

Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)

Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis)

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)


American Goldfinch

American Robin

Mourning Dove

Red-winged Blackbird

Song Sparrow




One fish species with conservation status in Minnesota has been seen here:

Special Concern

Topeka shiner (Notropis topeka)


Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas Fishes List


Insects and Arachnids


One insect and arachnid species with conservation status in Minnesota has been seen here:


Dakota skipper (Hesperia dacotae)


Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas Insects List


American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis)

black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

common green darner (Anax junius)

common wood nymph (Cercyonis pegala)

goldenrod gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis)

monarch (Danaus plexippus)

orange sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

twelve-spotted skimmer (Libellula pulchella)

variegated meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum)

widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)


common green darner





plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius)

whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

  whitetail deer  



Six plant species with conservation status in Minnesota are found here:


prairie bush clover (Lespedeza leptostachya)

tapertip flatsedge (Cyperus acuminatus)

two-headed water starwort (Callitriche heterophylla var. heterophylla)

Special Concern

buffalo grass (Buchloë dactyloides)

Scouler’s popcorn flower (Plagiobothrys scouleri)

tumblegrass (Schedonnardus paniculatus)


Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas and Minnesota Biological Survey Vegetation Releves Plant List


Plants frequently found in:

Crystalline Bedrock Outcrop (Prairie): Sioux Quartzite Subtype ROs12a2

Mesic Prairie (Southern) UPs23a



American bugleweed (Lycopus americanus)

American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

American plum (Prunus americana)

asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)

big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi)

bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)

black bindweed (Fallopia convolvulus)

black medick (Medicago lupulina)

blue vervain (Verbena hastata)

bracted spiderwort (Tradescantia bracteata)

bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare)

butter and eggs (Linaria vulgaris)

Canada anemone (Anemonastrum canadense)

Canada lettuce (Lactuca canadensis)

Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Canadian tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense)

candle anemone (Anemone cylindrica)

clammy groundcherry (Physalis heterophylla)

clammy hedge-hyssop (Gratiola neglecta)

clasping-leaved Venus’ looking-glass (Triodanis perfoliata ssp. perfoliata)

common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis)

common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

common mullein (Verbascum thapsus ssp. thapsus)

common plantain (Plantago major)

common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

compass plant (Silphium laciniatum)

cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum var. perfoliatum)

curly dock (Rumex crispus)

curly-cup gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa)

desert false indigo (Amorpha fruticosa)

downy phlox (Phlox pilosa ssp. fulgida)

early figwort (Scrophularia lanceolata)

field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)

field clover (Trifolium campestre ssp. campestre)

field horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

foxtail barley (Hordeum jubatum ssp. jubatum)

giant goldenrod (Solidago gigantea)

golden alexanders (Zizia aurea)

gray-headed coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)

green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)

grimmia dry rock moss (Grimmia laevigata)

hairy hedge nettle (Stachys pilosa var. pilosa)

heart-leaved four o’clock (Mirabilis nyctaginea)

heart-leaved golden alexanders (Zizia aptera)

hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium)

hoary alyssum (Berteroa incana)

hoary vervain (Verbena stricta)

Indian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum)

leadplant (Amorpha canescens)

little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

Maximilian’s sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani)

meadow garlic (Allium canadense var. canadense)

musk thistle (Carduus nutans)

narrow-leaved cattail (Typha angustifolia)

narrow-leaved meadowsweet (Spiraea alba var. alba)

narrow-leaved purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)

needle-and-thread (Hesperostipa comata ssp. comata)

northern bedstraw (Galium boreale)

perennial sow thistle (Sonchus arvensis)

plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides ssp. molinifera)

plains prickly pear (Opuntia macrorhiza)

plumeless thistle (Carduus acanthoides ssp. acanthoides)

prairie alumroot (Heuchera richardsonii)

prairie blazing star (Liatris pycnostachya var. pycnostachya)

prairie bush clover (Lespedeza leptostachya)

prairie coreopsis (Coreopsis palmata)

prairie fleabane (Erigeron strigosus var. strigosus)

prairie larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum ssp. virescens)

prairie peppergrass (Lepidium densiflorum)

prairie rose (Rosa arkansana)

prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola)

purple meadow-rue (Thalictrum dasycarpum)

purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea var. purpurea)

red clover (Trifolium pratense)

roadside agrimony (Agrimonia striata)

rough blazing star (Liatris aspera)

rough cinquefoil (Potentilla norvegica)

rough false pennyroyal (Hedeoma hispida)

round-headed bush clover (Lespedeza capitata)

Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila)

smooth brome (Bromus inermis)

smooth oxeye (Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra)

smooth scouring rush (Equisetum laevigatum)

spotted water hemlock (Cicuta maculata)

stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida ssp. rigida)

sulphur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta)

swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata ssp. incarnata)

tall cinquefoil (Drymocallis arguta)

timothy (Phleum pratense ssp. pratense)

veiny pea (Lathyrus venosus var. intonsus)

Virginia groundcherry (Physalis virginiana var. virginiana)

water smartweed (Persicaria amphibia)

western marbleseed (Lithospermum occidentale)

white prairie clover (Dalea candida var. candida)

white sage (Artemisia ludoviciana ssp. ludoviciana)

white sweet clover (Melilotus albus)

wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)

wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)

wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)

wolfberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis)

wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum var. andinum)

woodbine (Parthenocissus vitacea)

yellow avens (Geum aleppicum)

yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis)

yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta)


Achillea millefolium (common yarrow)

Agrimonia striata (roadside agrimony)

Allium canadense var. canadense (meadow garlic)

Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed)

Amorpha canescens (leadplant)

Amorpha fruticosa (desert false indigo)

Andropogon gerardi (big bluestem)

Anemonastrum canadense (Canada anemone)

Anemone cylindrica (candle anemone)

Apocynum cannabinum (Indian hemp)

Artemisia ludoviciana ssp. ludoviciana (white sage)

Asclepias incarnata ssp. incarnata (swamp milkweed)

Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed)

Asparagus officinalis (asparagus)

Berteroa incana (hoary alyssum)

Bromus inermis (smooth brome)

Calystegia sepium (hedge bindweed)

Carduus acanthoides (plumeless thistle)

Carduus nutans (musk thistle)

Cicuta maculata (spotted water hemlock)

Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle)

Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle)

Convolvulus arvensis (field bindweed)

Coreopsis palmata (prairie coreopsis)

Dalea candida var. candida (white prairie clover)

Dalea purpurea var. purpurea (purple prairie clover)

Delphinium carolinianum ssp. virescens (prairie larkspur)

Desmodium canadense (Canadian tick-trefoil)

Drymocallis arguta (tall cinquefoil)

Echinacea angustifolia (narrow-leaved purple coneflower)

Echinocystis lobata (wild cucumber)

Equisetum arvense (field horsetail)

Equisetum laevigatum (smooth scouring rush)

Erigeron strigosus var. strigosus (prairie fleabane)

Fallopia convolvulus (black bindweed)

Fragaria virginiana (wild strawberry)

Fraxinus pennsylvanica (green ash)

Galium boreale (northern bedstraw)

Geum aleppicum (yellow avens)

Gratiola neglecta (clammy hedge-hyssop)

Grimmia laevigata (grimmia dry rock moss)

Grindelia squarrosa (curly-cup gumweed)

Hedeoma hispida (rough false pennyroyal)

Helianthus maximiliani (Maximilian’s sunflower)

Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra (smooth oxeye)

Hesperostipa comata ssp. comata (needle-and-thread)

Heuchera richardsonii (prairie alumroot)

Hordeum jubatum ssp. jubatum (foxtail barley)

Lactuca canadensis (Canada lettuce)

Lactuca serriola (prickly lettuce)

Lathyrus venosus var. intonsus) (veiny pea)

Lepidium densiflorum (prairie peppergrass)

Lespedeza capitata (round-headed bush clover)

Lespedeza leptostachya (prairie bush clover)

Liatris aspera (rough blazing star)

Liatris pycnostachya var. pycnostachya (prairie blazing star)

Lilium philadelphicum var. andinum (wood lily)

Linaria vulgaris (butter and eggs)

Lithospermum occidentale (western marbleseed)

Lycopus americanus (American bugleweed)

Medicago lupulina (black medick)

Melilotus albus (white sweet clover)

Melilotus officinalis (yellow sweet clover)

Mirabilis nyctaginea (heart-leaved four o’clock)

Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose)

Opuntia macrorhiza (plains prickly pear)

Oxalis stricta (yellow wood sorrel)

Parthenocissus vitacea (woodbine)

Pastinaca sativa (wild parsnip)

Persicaria amphibia (water smartweed)

Phleum pratense ssp. pratense (timothy)

Phlox pilosa ssp. fulgida (downy phlox)

Physalis heterophylla (clammy groundcherry)

Physalis virginiana var. virginiana (Virginia groundcherry)

Plantago major (common plantain)

Populus deltoides ssp. molinifera (plains cottonwood)

Potentilla norvegica (rough cinquefoil)

Potentilla recta (sulphur cinquefoil)

Prunus americana (American plum)

Ratibida pinnata (gray-headed coneflower)

Rosa arkansana (prairie rose)

Rumex crispus (curly dock)

Sambucus canadensis (American elderberry)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Scrophularia lanceolata (early figwort)

Silphium laciniatum (compass plant)

Silphium perfoliatum var. perfoliatum (cup plant)

Solanum dulcamara (bittersweet nightshade)

Solidago gigantea (giant goldenrod)

Solidago rigida ssp. rigida (stiff goldenrod)

Sonchus arvensis (perennial sow thistle)

Spiraea alba var. alba (narrow-leaved meadowsweet)

Stachys pilosa var. pilosa (hairy hedge nettle)

Symphoricarpos occidentalis (wolfberry)

Thalictrum dasycarpum (purple meadow-rue)

Tradescantia bracteata (bracted spiderwort)

Trifolium campestre ssp. campestre (field clover)

Trifolium pratense (red clover)

Triodanis perfoliata ssp. perfoliata (clasping-leaved Venus’ looking-glass)

Typha angustifolia (narrow-leaved cattail)

Ulmus pumila (Siberian elm)

Verbascum thapsus ssp. thapsus (common mullein)

Verbena hastata (blue vervain)

Verbena stricta (hoary vervain)

Zizia aptera (heart-leaved golden alexanders)

Zizia aurea (golden alexanders)


American elderberry

American plum

bracted spiderwort

butter and eggs

Canada anemone

common evening primrose

common mullein

compass plant

cup plant

desert false indigo

gray-headed coneflower

heart-leaved four o’clock

hedge bindweed


musk thistle

narrow-leaved purple coneflower

northern bedstraw

prairie larkspur

prairie rose

purple prairie clover

red clover

rough cinquefoil

swamp milkweed

swamp smartweed

white prairie clover

wood lily

yellow sweet clover







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