Stately bur oak and basswood rise from the shaded forest floor of Gunlogson State Nature Preserve, while a tangle of alder shrubs sprout in the spring-fed wetlands. More than a dozen rare species can be spotted in the preserve, ranging from watermeal, one of the world's smallest flowering plants, to bishop's cap, a boreal species limited to a handful of locales in the state. The preserve also contains seldom seen birds such as the pileated woodpecker, an imposing species that excavates its signature rectangular holes in the trees of these forests.
G.B. Gunlogson loved this beautiful spot in the northeastern corner of North Dakota. His family homesteaded here and the area left a lasting impression on him. In 1963 Gunlogson donated 200 acres of the family's land to the state. This area later became North Dakota's first dedicated state nature preserve.
Gunlogson understood and spoke of the importance of natural areas—
"The nature area is the part in which I am most deeply interested... The terrain is highly varied and includes forest, brush, marsh, meadow, upland prairie, springs, ponds, and the Tongue River. It includes probably a greater variety of native plants, birds, and wildlife than found anywhere else in the state in one place... They form a sort of living link between pre-settlement condition of land and the present."
Gunlogson Nature Preserve is a link to earlier eras of different climatic conditions, and to the vast bounty that greeted North Dakota's first settlers. It is an island of intact habitat within an extensively modified landscape, and a refuge in its cool, moist conditions. Its significant biological features are the forest and wetland habitats themselves, and the array of rare plants and animals that depend on them.
Lowland woodland is the prevailing community type within the preserve. The lowland woodland is predominantly comprised of American elm, basswood and ironwood. Along with a variety of sedges and forbs, beaked hazel is a common understory species of the lowland woodland. Oak woodland communities line the upper margins of the Tongue River valley. The Tongue River winds throughout the preserve and is perhaps the lifeline of the entire preserve. This segment of the Tongue is a spring-fed river, which contributes dramatically to the significant botanical and forest resources surrounding it. The wetland thicket basin areas of the preserve house the highest local concentrations of rare species. Both eastern deciduous and boreal aquatic species are present, many at the outer limits of their range.
State-owned and managed nature preserves are open to the public for passive recreation, such as bird watching, hiking, and wildflower viewing. Gunlogson Nature Preserve has about three miles of developed hiking and cross country ski trails.
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