Hampton Woods Wildlife Management Area

Hampton Woods aerial view

The only forest among miles of farmland in all directions, Hampton Woods WMA is a 200-acre haven for wood thrush and other woodland wildlife near the Vermillion River in Dakota County. We helped permanently protect this area in 2017, and now we're working to restore its red oak forest. (Photo by Tom Reiter)

Where is Hampton Woods WMA?

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Hampton Woods Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is located roughly three miles west of the town of Hampton, near the South Branch of the Vermillion River in Dakota County.

Hampton Woods is part of a larger conservation and restoration strategy to improve wildlife habitat along this small tributary of the Mississippi River; our oak savanna restoration at South Branch Vermillion River Aquatic Management Area is just downriver from Hampton Woods.

The public is welcome to visit Hampton Wood WMA. (See the MN Department of Natural Resources website for more info.)

Our work here takes place on Dakota homelands. Learn more.

What’s special about Hampton Woods WMA?

Hampton Woods WMA constitutes about half of the entire woodland area known as Hampton Woods. Located in the heart of Dakota County, the forest stands in stark contrast to the miles of surrounding farm fields. It is one of the largest contiguous oak forests in Dakota County, and it provides critical habitat for forest-dwelling animals, especially birds. Surveys of the area have found both the red-shouldered hawk and the wood thrush present, both Species of Greatest Conservation Need.

Wood thrush
(Wood thrush photo by Nate Rathbun/USFWS)

At Hampton Woods, spring ephemerals bloom beneath old red oaks. In the 1990s it was ranked by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as having "outstanding biodiversity significance." While the site still has a very good assemblage of native plants, invasive buckthorn and garlic mustard plants have taken over portions of the woodland over the past 25 years.

Our work at Hampton Woods WMA

Starting in 2012, FMR brought local landowners together with our longtime land protection partners, Dakota County and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. In 2017, this resulted in the permanent protection of 191 acres, or roughly half of the 420-acre Hampton Woods. FMR continues to work with nearby landowners to expand the protected area.

The forest at Hampton Woods is reminiscent of the Big Woods that once covered much of central Minnesota. As settlers transformed the surrounding prairie into farmsteads, they relied on the forest for timber and firewood. This forest was never converted into farmland, but it was selectively logged as recently as 2010.

Since 2017, FMR has been working with the DNR to restore the woods and preserve the habitat they provide amid mostly agricultural lands. We wrote a natural resources management plan in 2017. Funded by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the restoration aims to keep invasive species like European buckthorn and garlic mustard at bay and support the native plant community of southern mesic oak-basswood forest.

Find out more and get involved

Partners and funders for our work at Hampton Woods WMA

Our restoration work is made possible by the Outdoor Heritage Fund, Dakota County, BNSF Foundation, the Marathon Foundation, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, RBC Wealth Management, United Way of Hastings and Xcel Energy, and by our generous donors like you!

Landowners including Greg and Ed Kuntz, Mary and Glen Bakalars and Joan Giefer Uselmann made the initial conservation of this land possible.


A bird's eye view of Hampton Woods courtesy of FMR volunteer Tom Reiter.