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Red Lake Peatland

Red Lake Peatland


  • Listed on more than one “valuable wetland” list by natural resource agencies or nongovernment organizations.
  • Protects biological diverse wetland flora, fauna and/or their habitat
  • Rare or unique wetland type within its own biogeographical region. (Meeting this criteria would include, but is not limited to, wetlands with unique hydrology or chemistry that make it rare within its own region)
Red Lake Peatland is the largest, most diversely patterned peatland the lower United States. It features one of the largest and best developed water tracks, where a large amount of ground water moves through a large expanse of grasses and sedges. Red Lake Peatland, often referred to as the "Big Bog," stretches 50 miles in length. 
Red Lake Peatland occurs in the southern part of the range of the forested raised bog type in North America where glacial erosion and deposition created favorable conditions for peat accumulation in the Glacial Lake Agassiz plain.  Red Lake Peatland is the highest rated of the patterned peatlands in Minnesota because of its peatland features (fen and bog landforms, peatland types, plants, viability, and scientific research value) and it is larger than all the other patterned peatlands in the state combined.
Globally, Red Lake Peatland is extremely valuable for the study of peatland ecological and developmental processes due to it being relatively undisturbed and yet accessible for study.  It provides a unique climatic setting for the comparative study of peatland processes in different environmental settings with its complex groundwater systems and relatively low precipitation. 
The core area of Red Lake Peatland is permanently protected as a state Scientific and Natural Area covering over 82,000 acres and is also recognized as a national Natural Area Landmark.  An additional ~9,000 acres are protected by the adjacent Big Bog State Recreation Area which features the world’s longest interpretive boardwalk (over one mile long with numerous educational stations).  Red Lake Peatland is encompassed in the Big Bog Important Bird Area and is proposed to be part of the state’s Heart-of-the-Bog Birding Trail.  Many of the native plants found in Red Lake Peatland, including yellow-eyed grass, bog rush, and sundews, are listed as Minnesota special concern species. 
Additional Information:
Exemplary Ecosystem Services:
  • Maintains ecological connectivity/cohesion
  • Recreation (birdwatching, ecotourism)
  • Carbon storage
Conservation status: State/Province/Regional Protection
Adjacent Land Use: Herbaceous Wetland
Approximate natural buffer width: 
  • > 100 ft
Is there any other information that should be conveyed regarding your nomination of this wetland? 

 This nomination is focused on the core area of Red Lake Peatland, which is largely protected by state designation of the Red Lake Peatland Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) and the adjoining north unit of the Big Bog State Recreation Area (SRA). Overall the Red Lake Peatland is over 200,000 acres in size (over 80,000 ha). This larger extent of contiguous peatland is largely in state ownership by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources including the Red Lake Wildlife Management Area and state forest lands.  Also, some county lands, federal lands, and lands managed by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa encompass some portions of Red Lake Peatland.

Approximate size: 37,190 ha proposed for designation as a Wetland of Dist. Overall, the Red Lake Peatland encompasse
General wetland characterization: 
  • Inland Fresh Bog
Adjacent Water Bod(ies): 
  • Lake
Name of body of water: Red Lake
Surficial Geology:

Red Lake Peatland is the remnant lake plain of Glacial Lake Agassiz, which formed following the Wisconsin glaciation and was subsequently drained when erosion created a natural outlet.  This flat and continuously saturated landform has many patterns of interest such as teardrop islands comprised of tamarack within the mineral-rich water track fen, ribbed fens, and nutrient-poor crested and ovoid spruce bogs.  The underlying bedrock is Precambrian (Late Archean) in age, and includes gneiss, amphibolite, undifferentiated granite and metamorphosed mafic to intermediate volcanic and sedimentary rocks. For more information:



 As the name indicates, the primary soils in Red Lake Peatland are histosols, underlain by lacustrine sediment deposited from Glacial Lake Agassiz.

Dominant flora: Larix laricina (tamarack), Picea mariana (black spruce), Betula pumila (bog birch), Chamaedaphne calyculata (Leatherleaf), Rhododendron groenlandicum (Labrador tea); Carex exilis (coastal sedge), C. lasiocarpa (fen wiregrass sedge), C. limosa (candle-lantern sedge, C. oligosperma (bog wiregrass sedge), C. trisperma (three-seeded bog sedge), Cladium mariscoides (twig rush); Menyanthes trifoliata (buckbean), Potentilla palustris (marsh cinquefoil); Sphagnum angustifolium, S. magellanicum
Unique flora: Rhynchospora fusca (sooty-colored beak rush), Juncus stygius (bog rush); Drosera anglica (English sundew), Drosera linearis (linear-leaved sundew), Xyris montana (montane yellow-eyed grass), Utricularia cornuta (horned bladderwort), Cypripedium acaule (stemless lady's slipper), Pogonia ophioglossoides (snakemouth orchid).
Dominant fauna: Canis lupus (e. timber wolf), Synaptomys borealis (no. bog lemming); Grus Canadensis (sandhill crane), Circus cyaneus (no. harrier), Corvus corax (raven), Catharus guttatus (hermit thrush), Empidonax minimus (least flycatcher), Oreothlypis ruficapilla (Nashville warbler); Ambystoma laterale (blue spotted salamander); Libellula quadrimaculata (four-spotted skimmer), Nehalennia irene (sedge sprite); Boloria eunomia (bog fritillary), B. frigga (Frigga fritillary), Hesperia sassacus (Indian skipper)
Rare fauna: Phalaropus tricolor (Wilson’s phalarope), Coturnicops noveboracensis (yellow rail), Accipiter gentillis (no. goshawk), Cygnus buccinators (trumpeter swan), Pelecanus erythrohynchos (American white pelican), Vermivora chrysoptera (golden-winged warbler); Aeshna sitchensis (zigzag darner), A. subarctica (subarctic darner), Somatochlora forcipata (forcipate emerald), S. franklini (delicate emerald), Sympetrum danae (black meadowhawk)


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