Nearby Public Land You Can Explore Tomorrow

Waterfowl Production Areas, the answer to the question I’ve Googled a thousand times, “things to do near me.”

Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) are sections of public land federally funded to conserve native ecosystems. They’re off the beaten path, no nonsense, and completely free to explore, especially when your parents come to town!

Maximilian's Sunflower at the Lincoln Waterfowl Production Area
Maximilian’s Sunflower at Lincoln WPA

Nick and I like to put on our hiking shoes and head for a Waterfowl Production Area when we want to get outside without making it a major production. It’s a great place to relax, get out of your head, and enjoy nature.

How To Do It

Gear 2 People

  • Long pants (highly recommended, grasses were taller than 4 feet!)
  • Hiking shoes
  • 2 Water bottles
  • Snack of choice

Steps To Get There

  • Use the maps to find a WPA or WMA nearby.
  • Drive to the location and circle until you find the parking area (it is fenced in and has a large sign).
  • Park in the grass.
  • Go where you want, the entire place is open with no trails!

Why Explore Waterfowl Production Areas

There’s this general belief that Waterfowl Production Areas are reserved for hunters.


The main purpose of a production area is wildlife restoration, hunting is simply one of the recreational activities available on these public lands!

That being said, it’s still important to note hunting seasons. Obviously, it’s not safe to hike around with your family October through December. But, by January, deer, pheasant, and duck hunting seasons have ended and the Waterfowl Production Areas are safe to explore again. You will most likely travel alone for the entirety of the summer!

If you’re not from Minnesota, please Google and read up on hunting seasons for your state to ensure a safe WPA trip!

Annie standing next to big bluestem grass and wild golden rod.
Big Bluestem prairie grass.

I count myself lucky because the Lincoln Waterfowl Production Area is only miles from my house, but I know this isn’t the case for everyone. Click the link below to find the closest Waterfowl Production Area to your home!

Waterfowl Production Area Interactive Map

If you’re exploring the prairie lands of Minnesota, use this PDF from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to identify the wild flowers you encounter.

Explore WMAs

In addition to Waterfowl Production Areas, we have Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). The difference? State funding vs. national funding.

To find a Minnesota Wildlife Management Area near you, check out the following link and scroll to the bottom. Change the filter to show results for your county.

Minnesota WMAs

Wildlife Management Areas are just as beautiful and off the path as Waterfowl Production Areas! There’s no railings, no visitor centers, just you and the waist high grasses to wander through.

History of Waterfowl Production Areas

The lands of the Waterfowl Production Areas are dedicated to preserving a native habitat and wildlife for the American people to enjoy.

As you would have guessed, Teddy Roosevelt had a hand in the creation of the Wildlife Refuge System with an Executive Order in 1903. The Refuge System now administers Waterfowl Production Areas.

There’s a page describing the Refuge System on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website, but the line that stands out the most to me is this:

“One key difference between wildlife refuges and waterfowl production areas is that all fee-title-owned WPAs are open to recreation activities unless public safety or other concerns dictate otherwise. In contrast, wildlife refuges are closed to recreation activities unless specifically opened.”

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website

These lands are set aside for us. To enjoy hiking, photography, nature viewing, skiing, etc. Just follow the guidelines and leave the environment unimpaired, it is ours for the exploring!

If you’re looking for another destination, check out our post on canoeing the Le Sueur River.


Visit a Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) or Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Use the following links to find an area of public land near you.

Minnesota WMAs


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This post was written by Annie Schmitz, July, 2020.

Annie standing in front of the garden after collecting tons of tomatoes.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Ann

    This is great information as we are looking for easy, inexpensive outside activities different from the routine walk or bike ride around our neighborhood. I loved the links to get more specific info for our area
    Can’t wait to explore

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