Metro anglers who want to stick close to home for the April 12 stream trout opener will have nearly two additional miles of shoreline to explore as a result of acquisitions made by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Dakota County.
Half a mile north of Dakota County Road 66 along County 79, the DNR has acquired a 52-acre aquatic management area that straddles the main branch of the Vermillion River, protecting 4,100 feet of shoreline. Upland areas of the property include five acres of grasslands and 25 acres of woods.
Further east, a 62-acre acquisition now affords access to the south branch of the Vermillion River just south of County Road 66 and west of state Highway 52. That parcel includes 6,900 feet of shoreline, 25 acres of grassland and 20 acres of woodland. The south branch is a coldwater tributary to the Vermillion that provides rearing areas and offers refuge for trout, especially during hot summer weather.
Both properties provide habitat for pheasants, turkeys, ducks, doves, deer and other wildlife; they also will be open to hunting, trapping and wildlife watching. The DNR’s Fisheries section will continue to work with the DNR Wildlife section to manage upland areas.
“These properties are a great addition to the region’s outdoor recreation system, especially for busy metro anglers and hunters who may not always have time for a several-hour drive,” said T.J. DeBates, DNR’s east metro fisheries supervisor. “Acquisitions like these not only protect habitat, they also provide much needed public access.”
The two properties cost $384,200. Funding was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. Money for the properties also came from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008, which increased sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent. The fund receives one-third of the sales tax dollars and may only be spent to restore, protect and enhance wetlands, prairies, forest and habitat for game fish and wildlife. Dakota County also contributed to the acquisitions.
The Vermillion River has gained notoriety over the past 10 years as a trophy brown trout stream within 45 minutes of a major urban area. As recently as 1960, though, the stream was considered unfit for any game fish due to poor water quality from industrial wastes and land use practices. The river’s comeback has been the result of local, regional and state efforts to improve water quality.
Since 2005, the DNR has acquired land protecting nearly 10 miles of shoreline along the Vermillion for habitat and public access for fishing and hunting. The DNR also has worked with local government and nonprofit conservation organizations on several stream restoration projects along the Vermillion.