John E. Williams Preserve
Local residents used to call this area the "Valley of the Moon." Its scenery is stark with wide-open vistas. It is nearly treeless, consisting of gently rolling grasslands with numerous wetlands and large alkali lakes. The preserve was part of a large eastward-flowing river valley in pre-glacial times, but after the continental glaciers receded the area was left with a cover of sand, gravel and other glacial drift materials. Numerous prairie pothole wetlands and lakes were also a legacy of the glaciers. Because of water flow and the geologic substrate, some of the lakes are quite alkaline, especially in dry years. Along some parts of the lakes, rocky and salty beaches have formed. These wetlands, lakes, and beaches are what make the Williams preserve important, especially for the animals and plants that utilize those habitats.
The shallow lakes of the Williams preserve are important migratory stopover areas for birds during both spring and fall migration. Large numbers of waterfowl and sandhill cranes are often present. During the summer breeding season, colonies of gulls and cormorants can be observed on some of the islands in Lake Peterson and Pelican Lake.
The most important species on the preserve is the piping plover. This shorebird, federally-listed as threatened, nests along the edges of the alkali lakes. The Williams Preserve supports one of the largest breeding concentrations of this bird in the world. During May, June, and July, the beach areas along the lakes and wetlands are closed to visitors to prevent disturbance to the nesting birds. Watch a slide show and learn more about how the Conservancy is working to conserve piping plovers on and around John E. Williams Preserve.
Another avian species of interest is the Baird's sparrow. This declining grassland nesting species are found in limited numbers around the preserve. Other nesting species of note include the avocet, willet, northern harrier, and grasshopper sparrow.
There is no potable water at the preserve or other facilities. The town of Turtle Lake is located nearby with facilities.
- Open Year 'Round
- Free Admission