Winona County has a new hiking and hunting spot, thanks to a recent addition to the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest in La Moille.
The newly acquired La Moille Unit, approximately 94 acres in size, provides public access to a bluff forest habitat and connects the bluff to more than 300 acres of existing state forest, which were difficult to access before now.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources forester Jim Edgar said the area is composed of two adjacent properties, of 64 and 30 acres. The 64-acre segment has a particularly rich history, some of which remains today. George and Margaret Sainsbury homesteaded the property in 1876 and raised 14 children there. Their descendants sold the family homestead, along with a public access, to the DNR this June.
“It includes mature hardwood forest, old field tree plantings, and a grand view of the Mississippi River from its hilltop bluff,” Edgar said in a statement. “Also located here are an old stone retaining wall and a long-unused bluff top quarry.”
The quarry was used to make roads and wingdams for the river, Edgar said. Old logging roads remain in the forest as well, now serving as walking trails for hikers and hunters.
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While the unit lacks a parking lot and any other developments, it is accessible by an easement from the north end of La Moille Drive.
Edgar said the La Moille Unit was purchased with dollars from the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund as well as Reinvest in Minnesota.
Over the past two years, the DNR has acquired 304 acres for the state forest all over southeast Minnesota at a cost of $1.2 million.
Acquisition of these lands is part of a long-term plan to consolidate the hardwood forest in the region and protect rare forest habitat. Of the 3.1 million acres of state forest land in the state, only 49,000 acres are in southeast Minnesota.