University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences
Classic oak savanna, photo by Jake MillerSavanna grasses, artwork by Jim KruegerBison grazing at Cedar Creek, photo by Jake Miller

Bison and Savanna Research

From Forest Isbell (associate director) and Caitlin Potter (education and outreach coordinator)

As many of you may have heard, Cedar Creek is starting up a new project in 2018 which will bring bison to our oak savannas as part of our decades-long work on savanna dynamics and restoration. This exciting opportunity is funded by Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which helps maintain, restore and enhance Minnesota’s environment and natural resources. Below are some informational resources, updates, and answers to frequently asked questions. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact Forest Isbell via email ( ).

Click here for our 1-page printable bison factsheet.

Click here to learn more about our savanna research and why bison are an important addition to our long-term restoration work.


The bison are back in East Bethel!
Come visit our bison viewing gazebo and learn about our savanna research on Saturdays beginning June 30 th . Trained naturalists will be on hand with bison artifacts, information and enthusiasm from 9am – noon. The gazebo is accessible via the Fish Lake Nature Trail and a new gazebo extension trail. The walk is about 1 mile each way on sandy roads. See map for directions. Additional viewing opportunities will be available throughout the summer – keep an eye on the Upcoming Events page and our facebook page for details! If you need accomodations for mobility reasons, please contact Megan Lauzon at 612-301-2622 or at least 24 hours in advance so that we can arrange for our naturalists to open a gate for you.
Please note that the herd ranges across a 200+ acre enclosure so we can not guarantee that the bison will be visible at any given moment. Keep your fingers crossed for good viewing luck!


From Highway 65, turn east at Cooper’s Corner onto 237th Avenue. Take this road until it ends at a T-junction, where you will see a sign for Cedar Creek. Take a right at the T onto Gopher Drive.  Follow the road around the curve to the left as the road changes names to 229th Avenue.  Stay on 229th and take a left onto Durant Street. Go up Durant Street and turn right onto the dirt road at the end which leads to the parking area, kiosk, portable restroom and trailhead. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Will the bison be here year-round? The bison will only be at Cedar Creek during the growing season, from approximately early June through September.

Where do the bison come from? The bison herd is being provided by NorthStar Bison, who also provides bison to Belwin Conservancy for prairie restoration.

Will I be able to see the bison or will they be off limits to the public? Our bison viewing gazebo will be staffed on Saturdays from 9am to noon, as well as during special events at other times during the summer. Keep an eye on Cedar Creek’s website and facebook page for more details! We are hoping to expand this access as the summer goes on and will let you know if the times and dates change!

Will I still be able to hike and ski on the Fish Lake Nature Trail? There will be no change in access to the Fish Lake hiking trail, which will remain open year-round and which is outside the bison enclosure. Similarly, there will be no change in access to the ski trails, which will remain open when there is snow on the ground (note that bison will not be present on the property when there is snow). As always, please remember that no dogs are allowed on the trails and that you must stick to the marked trails and roads to avoid damaging research projects.

What should I do if I see an escaped bison? Please call 911 and report your sighting to the dispatcher. This will initiate a phone tree that will alert Cedar Creek staff and project scientists, as well as the team in charge of retrieving the animal and returning it to the enclosure.

How many bison will there be? This summer, there are 32 bison onsite. Numbers are being kept low to ensure that there will be plenty of grazeable land available for each bison.

I'm excited! How can I learn more about bison? We hope you'll attend a public event at Cedar Creek this summer, and come see our bison herd and our research project in person! In the meantime, we recommend the National Parks Service series "Bison Bellows". This 52-week set of short articles from 2015 and 2016 covers bison ecology and history, celebrates the heros of bison conservation, and shares information about the 17 bison herds managed by the federal government. Check it out!