About Clear Lake Scientific and Nature Area

Clear Lake SNA has the distinction of being the first land parcel acquired under the state’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Program. The SNA features .65 miles of shoreline on the east side of the Mississippi River, near its confluence with the Clearwater River in Sherburne County.

The 55-mile stretch of the Mississippi from St. Cloud to Anoka was designated as a Minnesota Wild and Scenic River in 1973 to “preserve and protect the river’s outstanding scenic, recreational, natural, historical and scientific values.” This island-dotted section of the river features a broad valley flanked by 50-100 foot bluffs, with large expanses still forested and undeveloped. The SNA makes an important contribution to the ecological integrity of the river corridor here.

Visitors can expect to encounter steep topography. On the SNA’s extreme northern end, the forested bluff drops abruptly to the river’s edge. From this point, a prominent ridge line angles inland to the south and east, and the land along the river levels out into a terrace.

Oak woodland dominates the SNA, with a canopy of northern red oak, northern pin oak, and white oak with lesser amounts of bur oak and red maple. This is complemented by southern terrace forest nearest the river, where species such as American elm, boxelder, silver maple, green ash, hackberry and basswood are subjected to occasional flooding. A small (half-acre) sedge meadow along the southern boundary continues onto adjacent land.

Rare species documented here include a small population of Hill’s thistle and butternut—a tree once relatively common but largely eliminated in the state’s forests due to a widespread lethal fungus that attacks the cambium, or growing layer, of the tree just inside the bark.

  • This park allows canoes only- no motorized access.
Visitor notes

This site has no maintained trails or other recreational facilities. The Mississippi River Water Trail is adjacent to this site.