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Minnesota State Parks

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Southern Region
Richard J Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest
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This state forest features six recreational areas, seven campgrounds, and one day-use area. There really is something for everyone in this state forest.

The RJD Memorial Hardwood Forest is located in southeastern Minnesota. This state forest includes bluffs of the Great River Road of the Mississippi River and a number state water trails. Cannon River, Mississippi River, Root River, Whitewater River, and Zumbro River state water trails are within the forest's boundaries.

The best times to visit RJD Memorial Hardwood Forest is in the early spring when the spring ephemerals are in bloom and in the autumn for the fall colors. The DNR lists RJD Memorial Hardwood Forest as among the best places in the state for bird watching, motorized trail riding, horseback riding, and mountain biking.
History of the Area
Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest, often referred to as Dorer State Forest, is located in southeastern Minnesota, near the city of Winona. The state forest was named in memory of Richard J. Dorer, a prominent conservation advocate and leader who served with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Historically, the area that now comprises the state forest was originally covered in dense forests, consisting primarily of hardwood trees such as oak, maple, and hickory. This region was crucial for the timber industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The timber harvested from this area played a significant role in the economic development of the region.

The state-owned land in the Dorer State Forest was primarily acquired by the DNR in the mid-20th century as part of their efforts to control erosion, enhance wildlife habitat, and restore the area's natural resources. This land was initially owned by a private timber company that had difficulties with reforestation following logging activities.

In the 1970s, Richard J. Dorer served as the Director of the Minnesota Division of Forestry. He was a strong advocate for sustainable management practices and conservation. Dorer played a key role in expanding the state's forest resources and protecting valuable habitats.

In 1983, Richard J. Dorer passed away, and in recognition of his contributions to natural resource management in the state, the state forest was renamed in his honor. Today, the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest covers over 32,000 acres of land, making it one of the largest state forests in Minnesota.

The forest is managed by the DNR to balance recreational use, such as hunting, fishing, camping, and hiking, with sustainable timber harvesting practices. The DNR also works to maintain and enhance wildlife habitat, wetlands, and water quality within the forest boundaries.

The Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest remains a significant natural resource in southeastern Minnesota, providing recreational opportunities and serving as a living tribute to the legacy of Richard J. Dorer.
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1. Hay Creek Trail: This 12-mile trail is perfect for hikers of all levels, offering a variety of terrain and beautiful views over the forest canopy.

2. Trout Valley Management Unit Trails: These trails are located in the southern part of the state forest, featuring several miles through hardwood forests with opportunities to see wildlife such as deer and wild turkey.

3. Frontenac State Park Hiking Club Trail: A challenging hike that stretches across 13 miles within Richard J Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest boundaries; this trail offers stunning bluff-top views overlooking Lake Pepin on Mississippi River.

4. Cannon Valley Trail: An easy-to-moderate level hiking path stretching about twenty miles along an old railroad grade between Red Wing and Cannon Falls cities passing through scenic landscapes including wetlands, prairies & woodlands inside RJDMH State Forest area.

5. Zumbro Bottoms Horse Camp Loop: Though primarily used by horseback riders due its equestrian facilities at campgrounds but also open to hiker's use providing them chance to explore diverse ecosystems like oak savannas or floodplain forests alongside riverbanks while walking around these loops ranging from one mile up till five-mile long circuits.

6. Verchota Landing Nature Walk: It's short half-a-mile looped nature walk near Verchota landing site which provides great opportunity for bird watching amidst lush greenery during spring season especially when migratory birds flock here making it vibrant spot among entire park premises.

7. Goodhue Pioneer State Bike/HikeTrail: This multi-use recreational pathway extends approximately ten kilometers connecting city parks in Goodhue County traversing various terrains throughout RJD memorial hardwood state forest region giving ample chances spotting local flora fauna species en-route.

8. Hay Creek Day Use Area Walking Paths: These well maintained paths provide leisurely strolls under shade mature trees besides creek side picnic spots ideal family outings where kids can enjoy spotting butterflies or squirrels playing around.

9. Anderson Ridge Trail: This 5-mile trail is a moderately difficult hike that offers panoramic views of the forest and surrounding areas from atop an elevated ridge line.

10. Rattlesnake Bluff Trails: These trails provide hikers with challenging steep climbs leading to breathtaking bluff-top vistas overlooking Mississippi River valley below, making it worth every step taken uphill for those who dare this adventurous trek within RJD memorial hardwood state forest boundaries.

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Area Campgrounds
Whippoorwill Ranch Kampground
Route 1
Theilman, MN

1. Start by heading south on Highway 52 from St Paul or north on Highway 61 from La Crosse, Wisconsin.
2. Take Exit 56A toward MN:60 E/Wabasha/Plainview and merge onto US-63 S/MN-60 E.
3. Continue driving east for approximately 10 miles until you reach Zumbro Falls.
4. In Zumbro Falls, turn left onto Main Street (County Road T).
5. Follow County Road T for about a mile before turning right onto Wabasha County Rd #9/Schmidt Drive SE.
6. Stay on this road as it winds through scenic countryside for around six miles until you see signs indicating the entrance to Richard J Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest.

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Minnesota State Parks