University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences
Sunrise at Fish Lake, photo by Earl ByeGreat Crested Flycatcher, photo by Jim GindorffPhotographers on the public nature trail, photo by Frank Meuschke

Fish Lake Nature Trails

Hike the Fish Lake Nature Trails and experience the beauty and diversity of Cedar Creek at any time of year!

The Fish Lake Nature Trail is open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please stay 6+ feet from other walkers and obey all posted signs. No dogs, horses or motorized vehicles are ever allowed on the trail, and internal roads south of the trail are off-limits (and marked as such). Thank you!




Click here for directions from Google Maps. You can also type 'Fish Lake Nature Trail' into your own Google Maps search bar. Make sure to select the one on Durant St. The parking lot is slightly further down the road than the current pinned location - we are working with Google to fix this!

From Highway 65, turn east at Cooper’s Corner onto 237th Avenue. Take this road until it ends at a T-junction, where you will see a sign for Cedar Creek. Take a right at the T onto Gopher Drive. Follow the road around the curve to the left as the road changes names to 229th Avenue.  Stay on 229th and take a left onto Durant Street (look for the brown park sign with 'Fish Lake Nature Trail' written on it). Go up Durant Street and turn right onto the dirt road at the end which leads to the parking area, kiosk, portable restroom and trailhead. 

From Highway 35, Take exit 135 for US-61 S/Chisago County 22 toward Wyoming. Turn left onto US-61 N/E Viking Blvd. Turn right onto Typo Creek Dr NE. Turn left onto 227th Ave NE. Continue onto 229th Ave NE. After 2.3 miles, turn right on Durant St. (look for the brown park sign with 'Fish Lake Nature Trail' written on it). Go up Durant Street and turn right onto the dirt road at the end which leads to the parking area, kiosk, portable restroom and trailhead. 



The Fish Lake Nature Trail, also known as the John A. Harstaad Interpretive Trail, is dedicated to the memory of Cedar Creek scientist and naturalist John Harstaad. This trail winds through several distinct ecosystems along its 1.5 mile (one way) path. Hikers first pass through a sand prairie on the way from the parking lot to the lake. Turning left at the lake leads through a bur oak savanna where red-headed woodpeckers nest and feed. Continuing around the south end of the lake, there is a cattail wetland on the left and the lake on the right.  Sandhill cranes and water birds are commonly visible in this section. Traveling on to the southwest corner, one comes to the beginning of a deciduous forest and then to the first of four boardwalks crossing the cattail marshes. The trail ends in the forest and the return journey features the parade of ecosystems in reverse.

Boating on Fish Lake

Non-motorized boats are welcome on Fish Lake. Launch from the east side of the lake, at the end of the path from the parking lot, or at the north side of the lake along Fawn Lake Drive near the intersection with Durant St. (unimproved launch site). Please be respectful of wildlife when using the lake.


Five geocaches are placed along the trail. Bring your own GPS and see if you can locate them! For coordinates, visit the official geocaching website "Geocaching" or download this brochure from the City of East Bethel listing the codes for the five Fish Lake caches as well as several others around the city.

Bison gazebo and trail extension - SUMMER ONLY

The Bison Trail is CURRENTLY CLOSED. While the bison herd is onsite (generally June - mid September, though dates vary from year to year), a 1-mile (one way) trail extension heading south from Fish Lake is open to the public on Saturdays. For your safety as well as the safety and security of our research and our bison herd, this trail extension is closed at all other times (including during the week). It leads, via sand roads, to the bison viewing gazebo which is staffed by trained interpretive naturalists. Because the bison herd roams across 200+ acres of savanna, there is no guarantee that they will be visible from the gazebo. However, you are invited to pop by for a look and an opportunity to learn more about bison from our naturalists! They will be on hand with fur, bones, a bison skull and lots of information about the species and the project. The gazebo is also a wonderful place to birdwatch! More information about the bison project is available here.

Cross-country skiing - WINTER ONLY

Cross-county Ski Trails are CURRENTLY CLOSED. When the ground is snow covered, we invite you to snowshoe or cross-country ski the Savanna Loop Ski Trail, a 2-mile loop along internal sand roads. These trails are open to public access only in the winter; during the rest of the year they are used for research and are therefore closed to hikers unless otherwise marked.


Facilities include a pavilion with picnic tables, dirt parking area, information kiosk, benches, trash receptacles, and porta-potties. There is no running water at the trailhead or along the trail.

Rules and regulations
  • Day use only (sunrise to sunset)
  • Park only in designated areas (please do not park along Durant St.)
  • Deposit all trash in available receptacles.
  • No fires allowed and no smoking on trails
  • Stay on designated trails
  • No motorized vehicles, including ATV’s, dirt bikes, and snowmobiles
  • No bicycles
  • No dogs
  • No firearms, hunting, or collecting
  • No alcohol
  • No motorboats on lake (canoes allowed)

Please note: These trails are interpretive and/or nature trails. Please treat them as such, respecting the research and wildlife in the area.


See photos from Fish Lake!

Click here to see images taken by visitors to the Fish Lake Nature Trail! If you have pictures you'd like to share, email them to Caitlin ( You can also tag us on Instagram with the hashtag #ccesr or using the automated Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve location.

Special thanks to the City of East Bethel, friends and supporters of Cedar Creek ESR, and the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources for providing funding for this project.