Cedar Creek
Ecosystem Science Reserve


Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve (CCESR) is a 5400-acre research preserve situated on the Anoka Sand Plain at the Anoka/Isanti County boundary, some 30 miles north of the Twin Cities in east-central Minnesota. It is owned and operated by the University of Minnesota. It was recognized as a Registered Natural Landmark in 1975, and since 1982 has become one of several LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) sites across the country.

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve lies on a sandy outwash plain. Relief is slight, having an elevational gradient of only 10 meters. The area of about 2200 hectares (5400 acres, or about nine square miles) is roughly equally divided into four parts: wooded uplands, abandoned fields, lowland wooded swamps, and open marshes. Uplands consist of fine, nutrient poor, outwash sand. Lowlands with a muck-peat substrate atop sand were formed by the filling in of ice-block basins following the late Wisconsin glacial retreat. Climate is continental. Winters are cold, long, and filled with snow; summers are short, warm, humid, and filled with biting flies.  Springs are short, cool, and rather wet.  Falls are generally long and exhilarating--cool and bug free with lots of color and no interns.

Minnesota lies at the juncture of three great biomes of North America: Northern Boreal Forest, Eastern Deciduous Forest, and Western Tall Grass Prairie. CCESR contains elements of all three, and in consequence is floristically and faunally quite diverse. More than 800 species of vascular plants have been collected here; and although much of the area has been cleared, farmed, logged, or pastured in the past, a number of uncommon species have survived this abuse, and indeed flourish here. It is a special treat to be able to explore a pristine sand savanna with 100-year-old bur oaks, pasque flowers, false heather; and just a mile away walk into a black spruce-tamarack swamp with Labrador Tea, pitcher plants and sundew.

Upland habitats include more than 100 fields that had been cleared for agricultural use, but the sterile soils soon resulted in abandonment of these fields. Some of the oldest have reverted to sand prairie with Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) a dominant grass and a diversity of prairie forbs, while some of the more recently abandoned fields have a rather weedy character and are dominated by bluegrass and quackgrass ( Poa and Agropyron). Tracts of Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) Sand Savanna are found on the area, and many of these are included in a burn program of varying fire frequency. Wooded tracts that have not been burned are dominated by Pin Oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis) and have a rather depauperate ground flora. Some of these had been grazed in the past. There are only a couple of fire-protected upland woods that have a more mesic appearance with Basswood (Tilia americana) and Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) present. Also occuring on the uplands are tracts of Northern Great Lakes mixed forest with Jack, Red and White Pines (Pinus banksiana, P. resinosa, P. strobus) growing amongst hardwoods.

Lowland habitats are diverse and include: mixed lowland hardwoods (red maple, paper birch, etc.), black ash swamp, tamarack swamp, white cedar swamp, alder swamp, willow/dogwood bog birch/poison sumac shrub carr, and open marshland ranging from oligotrophic bogs (Chamaedaphne, Ledum, Sarracenia, Eriophorum, Sphagnum), to wiregrass sedge meadows (Carex species) to Typha, Calamagrostis, and Phalaris wetlands.  Four lakes occur on the Area.  Fish Lake is a large shallow, sand-bottomed lake.  The other three-- Beckman Lake, Cedar Bog Lake, and Ice Lake are small and bog-margined.  Cedar Creek, a small meandering stream, flows through the Area.

webmaster@cedarcreek.umn.edu Last updated 1/1/1998 12:00 pm (Thursday)