Jailhouse Marsh Restoration Project


Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge staff recently completed a restoration project at Jailhouse Marsh, located in the southern portion of the Louisville Swamp Unit, which will improve wildlife habitat and water management capabilities in the area. 

Maintenance staff and biologists replaced an earthen dike that was regularly impacted and weakened by flooding from the Minnesota River. Two 36” diameter and one 18” diameter outlet pipes were installed in the dike to allow more water to move through the area. Slide gates on the larger pipes allow more effective control over water levels throughout the year.

In the spring and fall, the slide gates can be closed off to allow the water level in the marsh to rise and provide migratory birds a place to rest and find food. The slide gates can also be opened to lower the water level in the marsh. Lower water levels allow for germination of emergent plants like the bulrush/sedge vegetative community and expose mudflats that provide food for wetland birds. Low water levels are necessary for prescribed burns in the area. Fire can reduce willows and invasive reed canary grass, which inhibit desirable native plant growth. These water management activities will also help maintain Refuge roads and protect fish species by considering spawning needs and fish passage. 

Jailhouse Marsh is home to diverse plant and animal species. Sightings of bald eagles, trumpeter swans, leopard frogs and river otters occur regularly. The restoration project at Jailhouse Marsh will improve wetland habitat and benefit both wildlife and Refuge visitors.