At the Refuge

Below, we've highlighted a few of the more recent "happenings". And if that doesn't inspire you to visit, here's a list of suggested FREE activities:

  • Participate in a refuge event or program at the Oak Savanna Learning Center.

  • Take advantage of the fall waterfowl and deer hunts. 

  • Bring your friends, family, scout troop, or school class to enjoy a nature hike.

  • Marvel at the sight and sound of bald eagles, sandhill cranes, and trumpeter swans. 

  • Cruise the Wildlife Drive to spot river otters popping their heads in and out of the water or a loon parent feeding its fuzzy chick. (Then record your findings via the iNaturalist app. Our custom Field Guides can help with your idenitifications)  

  • Add to your birding life list. (Our favorite app is eBird!)  Check for recent sightings within the refuge.

  • Capture a sunset with your camera. 

  • Enjoy the constantly changing palette of wildflowers and grasses. Peruse our phenology guide, Nature's Calendar, to check out what's happening now.

  • Explore the Blue Hill and Mahnomen Trails on skis or snowshoes.

An educational event, a rare bird sighting, or a deer hunt... no matter the time of year, there is always something going on at the refuge.

Photo by Mark Nicholson

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he Wildlife Drive, Oak Savanna Learning Center and both trail head restrooms are temporarily closed for the safety of visitors and staff. People are encouraged to plan accordingly to avoid needing a restroom during a visit. 


Refuge Headquarters is closed to the public starting Thursday, March 19 until further notice.  Programs and events are postponed.  Click here for Refuge COVID-19 info.

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Refuge Volunteer Appreciation Dinner

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Every year, Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge honors the hard work of refuge volunteers at the annual volunteer appreciation banquet. In 2019, refuge volunteers devoted 8,575 hours for many programs and events. At the banquet, the refuge also honored Volunteer of the Year, Kathy May. Congratulations, Kathy! Well deserved!

Annual Meeting

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News and plans from the Friends and from Refuge staff were discussed over desserts and coffee Tuesday evening.  The 2020 budget was approved.   A PDF file summarizing the presentations can be downloaded here. Unapproved minutes can be downloaded here (these minutes will be approvable at the next annual meeting.)

Membership is stable but donations are significantly up. We are funding the Welcome Station renovation on the Wildlife Drive and soon will see an Observation Blind on the trails near the Oak Savanna Learning Center. Also our newly hired naturalist contractor is busy with our youth education curricula.   

See this short slideshow for a few pictures of the good times at the event. (Photos by Bruce Ellingson.)

Adopt-a-Road Thanks!

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In the months of September, October and early November, Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge hosted its annual fall Adopt-a-Road program. We had 20 volunteers who cleaned up approximately 14 miles of refuge roads!

We would like to send a thank you out to acknowledge the hard work of our volunteers and partners as well as the success of this season's clean-up. This fall came with several challenges including road construction and plenty of precipitation. Our volunteer’s dedication, commitment and flexibility shined through this season as they overcame obstacles. Throughout these three months, litter from the refuge filled an 8-yard capacity dumpster. That’s more than 1400 gallons of trash removed from the refuge!

The refuge would also like to thank Ace Solid Waste for donating a dumpster for our Adopt-a-Road program to use during the three month clean-up

K-12 Photography Contest Participants Recognized at Award Ceremony.

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Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), in partnership with the Friends of Sherburne and the Sherburne Photography Club, hosted its 5th Annual K-12 Photography Contest this year. The contest saw a wonderful turnout with 24 total entries submitted. The refuge would like to thank and recognize all the participants for their beautiful photo submissions. All photos will be displayed in the Oak Savanna Learning Center for the winter months.

2019 Wildlife Festival

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Over 1250 visitors and volunteers enjoyed the wagon rides, food trucks and educational presentations at this year's Wildlife Festival. 


Click on the image to see a short video of all the fun. (Video by Bruce Ellingson.)

Thanks to our sponsors:

Crystal Cabinet Works

Elk River Lions

Bolt Hoffer Boyd Law

Sherburne State Bank

Diamond City Bread

Ace Solid Waste

Minzel Massage

Norwegian Wood Retreat

Phillips Distilling

Big Lake Lions

Papa's Italian

Slim's Painting

Becker True Value Hardware

Princeton Floral

Firehouse BBQ

P&A Liquor

Uptown Offsale

Prairie Restorations

Bailey Ray's 

Chili Lime

Cub Foods

K-Bob Cafe

Tha1on Kitchen

Reynold's Balloon & Party

Wildflower Tours

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Despite cloudy skies, 36 participants and volunteers cruised the Wildlife Drive for fall blooms.   A spectacular crop of Goldenrods (at least 3 varieties), Asters (Sky Blue, Western Prairie, White and Golden), Meadow Blazing Star, Jerusalem Artichoke, Botttle Gentian, Blue Vervain and Giant Hyssop were seen.  The areas most recently burned showed the densest displays.  

Bur Oak Planting

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We received a donation of 250 bare root bur oak seedlings in  May.  These were planted near the Oak Savanna Learning Center and the Blue Hill trailhead by over 30 Friends members, refuge volunteers and refuge staff. 

Note that many of the seedlings are encased in white grow tubes.  These protect them from deer browsing and provide a greenhouse environment that encourages growth.

Friends Read

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On Earth Day a group of Friends met at the Oak Savanna Learning Center to discuss the book "Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall Kimmerer.  

Rhythm and Brews Fundraiser

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Another successfule joint fundraiser party was held with the Sherburne County History Center.  This time we completely filled the party room at Pizza Pub in Princeton.  Our thanks to the many sponsors who contributed money, time and prizes to the event.


Our thanks to the 19 Community Sponsors who contributed raffle prizes and more.

Bailey Ray’s Roadhouse

Bolt Hoffer Boyd Law Firm



Hiway Liquor   

Los Ortizes

Minzel Massage

Nelson Nursery Garden Center

Norwegian Wood Retreat

P&A Liquor

Phillips Distilling

Prairie Restorations, Inc.

Princeton Floral


Sand Dunes Spirits


Uptown Offsale

Von Hanson’s Monticello

Zimmerman Floral

Photo by Myrna Krueger

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Christmas Bird Count

December 18,2018

The annual Christmas Bird Count held held at the refuge on Tuesday, December 18. Thirty-one volunteers  in 16 teams surveyed 41 bird species within a 7.5 mile radius extending in all directions from the intersection of Sherburne County Roads 9 and 5.


Check here for details on this annual national event: 

Photo by John Casey


Besides our website and social media, we share information about the refuge via Prairie Insider, an e-newsletter sent about once a month. Anyone can subscribe to Prairie Insider; simply fill out the form below! 


Prairie's Edge, is a publication that is printed and mailed twice a year and is a benefit that's exclusive to our members. Here are a few of our most recent Prairie's Edge publications: 

Refuge Resources


Here's a list of our favorite resources to help you learn something new, connect with others, or just enjoy your experience even more! 

The refuge has a wealth of on-line and printed resources as well. Visit their website to learn more. 

Sign up for Prairie Insider!



The Friends of Sherburne nurture an appreciation for and the conservation of the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge through education, volunteerism and philanthropy.

17076 293rd Avenue NW

Zimmerman, MN 55398


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Since 1993, the Friends of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (a 501c(3) nonprofit organization) has been a proud partner of the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge.


The refuge is a part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, each refuge manages their designated tract of lands and waters that have been set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife, and plants.

© 2006-2020 Friends of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge.
All rights reserved.