Hastings River Flats

A glimpse of the river from the restored prairie.

General description

Hastings River Flats is a site of multiple names and ownership. Located on the Mississippi River at Lock and Dam #2 in Hastings, it comprises about 216 acres of floodplain forest, emergent marsh, prairie, and parkland. Ownership of the site is roughly split between the Army Corp of Engineers, which manages the lock and dam and most of the floodplain forest, and the City of Hastings, which manages much of the south end of the site as city park. A third small area is retained by Flint Hills Resources, the original owner of much of the land. After petroleum storage tanks were removed from the site in the 1970's, most of the land was donated to the City for parkland.

On the west side of the river flats is Lake Rebecca, a spring-fed lake managed by the city, which includes a boat launch and fishing pier. There is also a boat launch on the Mississippi River. To the east and west, the flats are flanked by high bluffs above the river, adding to the diverse texture of the site.

Ecological Significance

Located just above the confluence of the Mississippi and St Croix River, Hastings River Flats is in an ecological hotspot. Peregrine falcons nest on the bluffs above, while bald eagles claim the river flats as home. Dozens of other bird species found here make this an excellent place for birdwatching, especially during migration. One may see flocks of American pelicans floating overhead, numerous duck species, sandhill cranes, sora, an assortment of neotropical migrants, as well as prairie specialists and many other species. The River Flats area is as an exceptional resource in the City of Hastings, whose residents appreciate the unique ecological treasure as a defining asset to the community. Here, recreation and public use intermingle with natural beauty and a potentially healthy, functional ecosystem.

Ecological Concerns

Primary concerns for this site are invasive, non-native species. Common buckthorn overtakes forested areas, where it is detrimental to the health of songbirds and other animals. Purple loosestrife, reed canary grass and other species are problematic in the grassland areas.

Restoration Goals

FMR's outlook for the Hastings River Flats is to maintain the functions and diversity of the native plant communities, thus providing critical habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

Restoration Progress

FMR has been working with the City of Hastings since 2002 to restore the health and natural landscape of the river flats' area. At that time FMR prepared an ecological evaluation and management recommendations for the site, that provided a feasible plan of action to restore the fundamental structure of the once-thriving ecosystem. FMR was then able to secure funding to implement the plan, including 30 acres of prairie restoration, and management of about 80 acres of floodplain forest. A shoreline planting was also installed along Lake Rebecca, where it thrived and provided a fabulous display of colorful plants, until major flooding destroyed it a few years later.

FMR continues to work with the city to periodically help manage this this site, with prescribed burn, and control of invasive plants. For further information concerning the details of what recommendations have been planned, visit FMR's Hastings River Flats web page.

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, June 25, 2024 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Nicollet Island, Minneapolis
New date: Saturday, August 10, 2024 at 5 p.m.
Hidden Falls Regional Park, St. Paul
Wednesday, August 14, 2024 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific & Natural Area, Inver Grove Heights