Opportunities for Outdoor Adventure: A Guide to DNR Land in the City

Columbus is home to the two largest Wildlife Management Areas in the north metro; Lamprey Pass and Carlos Avery.  Both have significant wetland acreage and open water basins.  This creates opportunity for bird watching, non-motorized boating, and hunting.  Many people also use the area for hiking or walking their dogs – but Fido must stay leashed at all times.

Lamprey Pass

Lamprey Pass is roughly 1,300 acres in size and contains two shallow lakes – Mud Lake and Howard Lake.  This WMA is also home to the oldest known Native American settlement in Minnesota.  Burial mounds from the Hopewell culture are located in Lamprey Pass and are believed to date back more than 2,000 years.  The name Hopewell refers to a culture of people who flourished between A.D. 1 and A.D. 500, and were known for building numerous mounds and large earthworks. 

Today, many people visit Lamprey Pass to bird watch, hike, walk dogs, or hunt.  This is a prime area to view waterfowl such as great blue herons, mallards, white pelicans, and bald eagles.  Bald eagles have a nearby nest which means it is also possible to see juvenile eagles.  Other wildlife in the area include pheasants, hawks, owls, foxes, badgers, turkey, and white-tailed deer.

There are two main access points to Lamprey Pass in Columbus.  The first is off of Lake Drive, roughly 1 mile west of the TH-97 exit off I-35.  There is a small parking lot with a sign, that leads to a walking path which will take you to a dock overlooking Howard Lake.  The second access point can be reached by taking W. Freeway Drive north from Lake Drive.  The intersection of Lake Drive and W. Freeway Drive is just west of the I-35 interchange.  W. Freeway Drive will dead end in the Lamprey Pass parking lot.  This lot leads to a 1.5 mile loop through the WMA, which is also connected to longer trails heading northwest. 

Carlos Avery

Carlos Avery is over 24,000 acres in size and extends from northern Anoka County to southern Chisago County.  The WMA is named after Minnesota’s first game and fish commissioner.  Carlos Avery is split into two units; the Main Unit west of I-35, and the Sunrise Unit east of I-35 in Chisago County.  Three state wildlife sanctuaries are also located in Carlos Avery, which are closed to all public use (unless you have a permit from the DNR). 

The primary recreational use of Carlos Avery land is hunting.  The most sought after species in Carlos Avery are waterfowl, deer, turkey, and squirrels.  Fishing and birdwatching is also popular.  Over 270 species of birds have been recorded, and even more can be seen during migration.  Many people also enjoy canoeing or kayaking on the Sunrise River as a way to view wildlife or to fish.  The area can be used in the winter for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

Accessing Carlos Avery from the City of Columbus is easiest from two main locations – Camp Three Road and Broadway Avenue.  Camp Three Road heading west will dead end into Carlos Avery, and turn into the Camp Three Trail.  This trail will meet up with South Road, and head north to Broadway Avenue.  Smaller trails and roads extend from South Road and Camp Three Trails. 

Off Broadway Avenue, just over a half mile from the Lexington Avenue intersection, are two access points to Carlos Avery.  On the north is access to Gamefarm Road which travels north and comes to a “T” intersection.  To the right is Headquarters Road.  Headquarters Road travels east and provides access to smaller roads and trails.  To the left is the continuation of Gamefarm Road which eventually leads to East Bethel and the Boot Lake Scientific and Natural Area.  The Boot Lake Scientific and Natural Area is closed to hunting and fishing but is open to hiking and wildlife watching.  Be sure to stay on the road if traveling either Gamefarm or Headquarters Roads because they border a Wildlife Sanctuary which is closed to the public.  On the south side of Broadway Avenue is access to South Road which will take you down to Camp Three Road.

Many roads in Carlos Avery are closed to motor vehicles during certain times of the year because of poor road conditions.  However, foot travel is welcome year-round in all areas outside of the Wildlife Sanctuaries.  Keep your eyes peeled for signs marking these sanctuaries, as they are closed to the public.  Because hunting is so popular in the area, we encourage hikers to consider wearing blaze orange.  In addition, it is mandatory for dogs to be leashed at all times.