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It's a place you've probably driven by many times when on Highway-52 but did you know it's also a place 40 percent of all waterfowl and shorebirds in the US visit each year?

I admit that ever since we put up a bird feeder in our yard, I've become more interested in the many species of fine feathered friends that call Minnesota home. So when I read the statistic that nearly half of all shorebirds (and waterfowl) visit this spot in Minnesota, I was intrigued.

It's the Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific Natural Area

That spot is, of course, the Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area (SNA), located just off Highway-52 along the Mississippi River in Inver Grove Heights. The Friends of the Mississippi and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources say it covers an extensive area of woodland, wetland, and prairie. It's one of the least disturbed parts of the mighty Mississippi in Minnesota and features stunning views from 200-foot bluffs that overlook the river.

It's a place birds visit every year. A LOT of birds!

And, yes, it's a big place for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds every year. (Twice every year, actually, when they begin their journey south each fall and again when they head back each spring.)

That's why Pine Bend Bluffs also been noted as an Audobon Important Bird Area, mainly thanks to its location along the Mississippi Flyway, the 'migratory corridor for 40% of North America's waterfowl and shorebirds,' Audobon notes. That stat seems amazing to me: Nearly HALF of all waterfowl and shorebirds in North America stop at this spot here in Minnesota?!?

Just to put that in perspective, the Audobon Society says that bird count studies conducted back in 1997 and 2001 came up with an impressive number of birds who've visited Minnesota during their yearly migrations:

+ 760,000 dabbling ducks (wood duck, teal and widgeon) including 600,000 mallards are estimated to use the flyway every year.

+ An estimated 36,493 waterbirds were observed in the 2001 spring surveys.

+Even MORE were observed in the 2001 fall survey, where an estimated 126,071 waterbirds used the area between August 31 and December 23. (You can read all the detailed species counts from the Audobon Society HERE.)

Other outdoors activities you can do at Pine Bend Bluffs

If you're looking for something to do this spring and summer, the DNR says activities including bird and wildlife watching, photography, hiking, biking and picnicking are all available at the Pine Bend Bluff Natural Area.

Of course, if you're looking to get out and explore Minnesota's great outdoors but don't want to make that hour drive north to Pine Bend Bluffs, keep scrolling to check out the 6 Minnesota State Parks closest to Rochester.

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The 6 Minnesota State Parks Closest to Rochester

Minnesota's state parks and rec areas are offering free admission Saturday, April 24th, so here are the 6 closest parks to Rochester