2017 project site atop bluff

Frontenac State Park


picnicker enjoying view atop bluff overlooking Lake Pepin
Heather Abrahamson /P&TC photo contest
person in hammock by campfire
Manda Baldwin / P&TC photo contest

About the park

Frontenac State Park takes a commanding position high atop the bluffs overlooking Lake Pepin, which is a natural widening of the Mississippi River.

Some 260 species of birds have been seen here, many migrating via the Mississippi flyway. There is a rich diversity of natural communities and landscapes: bluffs, prairie, floodplain forests, and hardwood forest.

Archeological excavations at Frontenac in 1976 uncovered artifacts from the Hopewellian culture dating from 400 B.C. to 300 A.D. Some sites were burial grounds; some were living areas. Research also shows that the Dakota and Fox Indians hunted and fished on the shores of Lake Pepin.

Our Work by the Numbers



undertaken by P&TC
for this park



of land saved
for this park



when most recent
project was completed


$1.5 M

total value of
all land projects

Park Map Showing Project Sites

Our Project Stories

Preserving a majestic view for Frontenac

TIMELINE: 2017-2020

ACRES: 159

LOCATION: SW of park entrance

VALUE: $866,250 (at time of purchase)

PARTNER: Frontenac State Park Association

The Waconia Cliffs have long been known as a place of outstanding beauty with views looking out over the a quiet creek and valley below.

In 2017 the owner put this land up for sale, thus presenting a small window of opportunity to protect this land for future generations to enjoy as part of the park. Parks & Trails Council began discussions right away, knowing that if the landowner sold to a private entity that would likely put an end to any future use as parkland, perhaps forever. This land holds a bluff overlooking the Pleasant Valley Creek and Lakelet as well as restored prairie and oak savanna lands.

While the beauty and location of this land makes it a natural addition for the park, it was not located within the statutory boundary of the park when Parks & Trails Council purchased it. Parks & Trails Council partnered with folks from the Frontenac State Park Association to advocate for the addition of this land into the boundary of Frontenac State Park. In 2018, the park boundary was successfully expanded to include this land, but it wasn’t for another two years that the public funds were allocated to purchase the land for the park.

We are proud to have played a pivotal role in bringing this land into the park. Waconia cliffs are now part of our shared natural heritage and as the park develops trails, we are certain it will soon become a place full of beloved outdoor memories.

Protecting the creek

TIMELINE: 2008-2008

ACRES: 100

LOCATION: Along Pleasant Valley Creek

VALUE: $351,000 (at time of purchase)

Nestled next to Frontenac State Park was the longstanding Villa Maria Academy. It was a catholic high school for girls run by the sisters of Ursuline from 1891 – 1969, until a fire caused the school operations to close. It continued to operate as a retreat center with its iconic medieval buildings set among the beauty of Frontenac.

In 2008 the sisters decided to sell about 100 acres of land on their property that abutted the state park. Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota made the acquisition and worked with the DNR to incorporate it into the park that same year. The land includes portions of the creek that runs into Lake Pepin as well as land that abutted the three-quarters of a mile park trail leading to Lake Pepin. In 2017 the Villa Maria Academy put the remaining property and buildings up for sale.

Preserving a future vision

TIMELINE: 2001-2002

ACRES: 38.5

LOCATION: Atop bluffs rimming Lake Pepin

VALUE: $278,500 (at time of purchase)

This parcel was an inholding along the northwestern bluff in Frontenac State Park. This area of the park, which is undeveloped and essentially inaccessible, provides critical habitat for wildlife. The urgency to act to protect this stretch became clear when nearby land was being sold for well over appraised values and other parcels were being divided, leaving the state unable to compete for their acquisitions. Today, while this area is unconnected from the main area of the park, it adds to the potential for a long-term vision of a contiguous stretch of land along this scenic bluff.

Land Projects at Other Parks or Trails

Tour more of the land projects we’ve undertaken for parks and trails.

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