University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences
Bison enjoying the savanna landscape, photo by Chad ZirbelClassic oak savanna, photo by Jake MillerBison at the woodland edge, photo by Chad Zirbel

Bison and Savanna Research

From Dr. Forest Isbell (associate director) and Dr. Caitlin Barale Potter (education and community engagement coordinator)

As many of you may have heard, Cedar Creek began a new project in 2018 which brought bison to our oak savannas as part of our decades-long work on savanna dynamics and restoration. This exciting opportunity is funded by Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which helps maintain, restore and enhance Minnesota’s environment and natural resources. Below are some informational resources, updates, and answers to frequently asked questions. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact Forest Isbell via email ( ).

Click here for our 1-page printable bison factsheet.

Click here to learn more about our savanna research and why bison are an important addition to our long-term restoration work.

Click here for an overview blog post, on our Eyes on the Wild trail camera blog.

Click here to read a science writer's perspective on her visit to the the herd.



Cedar Creek's wooly friends are roaming the oak savannas once again (directions at! Open hours at the gazebo are on Saturdays from 10am - 2pm, beginning June 1st! We also invite neighbors and friends to visit from 5pm - 8pm on the first Wednesday of each month. A map and directions are available here. We'll post details about additional visiting hours, access and programming for the summer on this webpage and on our facebook page as we get things scheduled. For safety and security reasons, the bison gazebo and extention trail are closed at all other times, including during the week.
Mark your calendars: the postdoctoral researcher on the bison project, Chad Zirbel, will give a lunchtime talk at Cedar Creek on July 9th at 11:30am. Register online by clicking here. He will also reprise his talk at the Johnsville library in Blaine on November 4th (6pm) as part of our "Nature Talk at Cedar Creek" series in partnership with the Anoka County Library system.
If you can't make it out to visit, we recommend you check out Cedar Creek's trail camera project, Eyes on the Wild. You can help our scientists classify images of wildlife on the property, and there are PLENTY of pictures of last year's herd for you to enjoy!
Visiting Notes

Hours: The trail to the bison gazebo and the gazebo itself are only open on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm, and on the first Wednesday of the month from 5pm - 8pm. The trail and gazebo are closed at all other times. The trail begins from the Fish Lake Nature Trail parking lot, a 5-mile drive from our headquarters. Directions are available at

Ticks: The trail to the bison gazebo does go through grassy areas so make sure to check yourself for ticks when you get home! More information about tick identification, risks and prevention is available on the MN Department of Health website.

Dogs: No dogs are allowed at Cedar Creek. This includes on the public nature trail, on the bison extention trail, and in the gazebo. Dogs disturb the wildlife and change the ecosystems being studied, as well as have the potential to get hurt should they take off into the reserve's experimental plots which have electricity, rebar and other hazards. Exceptions are made for service animals with vests and under their owner's control.

Trail Conditions: The trail from the public parking lot (directions at to the bison gazebo is one mile in each direction. The walking surface is on a mix of compacted dirt trail and soft sand roads. There are a few benches along the way, as well as a portapotty at the parking lot and near the gazebo. Please bring good shoes, water and snacks for your hike! If you need mobility accomodations, we may be able to arrange for you to drive part of the way to the gazebo: please email Megan Lauzon ( or Caitlin Potter ( in advance of your visit for additional instructions. As we are a field station, options for parking, turnarounds and other access are limited.

Facilities: Cedar Creek's primary purpose is scientific research, so we do not have the facilities of a larger park or nature center. There is a portapotty located at the Fish Lake Nature Trail parking lot and a second near the gazebo. There is no running water available anywhere along the trail or gazebo, so please bring a water bottle! The 1-mile one-way bison gazebo extension trail is on internal research roads, so plan for sandy walking and keep an eye out for cars and research vehicles.

Directions: A trail map as well as information about hiking, geocaching, boating and more are available here (


Frequently Asked Questions

Will the bison be here year-round? The bison are only at Cedar Creek during the growing season, from approximately early June through early September.

Where do the bison come from? The bison herd is being provided by NorthStar Bison, who also provides bison to Belwin Conservancy for prairie restoration.

Will I be able to see the bison or will they be off limits to the public? While the bison are on site, our bison viewing gazebo is staffed on Saturdays from 10am til 2pm, as well as during special events at other times during the summer. Keep an eye on Cedar Creek’s website and facebook page for more details! 

Will I still be able to hike and ski on the Fish Lake Nature Trail? There will be no change in access to the Fish Lake hiking trail, which will remain open year-round and which is outside the bison enclosure. Similarly, there will be no change in access to the ski trails, which will remain open when there is snow on the ground (note that bison will not be present on the property when there is snow). As always, please remember that no dogs are allowed on the trails and that you must stick to the marked trails and roads to avoid damaging research projects.

What should I do if I see an escaped bison? Please call 911 and report your sighting to the dispatcher. This will initiate a phone tree that will alert Cedar Creek staff and project scientists, as well as the team in charge of retrieving the animal and returning it to the enclosure.

How many bison will there be? In summer 2018, there were 32 bison onsite. In 2019, we are hosting 17 males, for a longer period of time. Numbers are being kept low to ensure that there will be plenty of grazeable land available for each bison.

I'm excited! How can I learn more about bison? We hope you'll attend a public event at Cedar Creek during the summer months, and come see our bison herd and our research project in person! In the meantime, we recommend the National Parks Service series "Bison Bellows". This 52-week set of short articles from 2015 and 2016 covers bison ecology and history, celebrates the heros of bison conservation, and shares information about the 17 bison herds managed by the federal government. Check it out!


I have a question that isn't answered above!

We encourage you to submit your questions at We will respond as we are able and answers will be viewable at