BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Looking to explore some natural hidden gems without venturing too far from home?

The Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas Program is holding two self-guided events at La Salle Lake and the Lost 40, both SNAs near Bemidji that offer an abundance of unique wildlife and scenery.

Each of these Bioblitzes take place over a two-week period, in which participants can visit the SNA and make observations of its biodiversity using iNaturalist, a website and app that helps users identify the plants and animals around them.

The SNA Program welcomes observations, and the virtual aspect of the events allows individuals and household groups to get outside and contribute to community science while practicing safe social distancing.

“We’re hoping to compile a more thorough species list for our website while offering a fun, socially distant way for people to engage with the SNA,” Kari Wallin, SNA volunteer outreach specialist, said in a release.

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The La Salle Lake SNA Bioblitz runs from Wednesday, Aug. 26, to Wednesday, Sept. 9. It is located in Hubbard County and is eight miles north of Itasca State Park.

The area features the clear-running La Salle Creek, which flows through many high-quality plant communities -- such as both red and white pine forest, white cedar swamps, sedge meadows and willow-dogwood shrub swamps -- before joining the Mississippi River downstream.

The Lost 40 SNA Bioblitz runs from Wednesday, Sept. 16, to Wednesday, Sept. 30. It is located in Northome, Minn., in the Chippewa National Forest.

The area features many acres of designated old-growth white and red pine forest -- with some trees dated to be over 200 years old.

To participate, sign up on iNaturalist by joining the La Salle Lake SNA Self-guided Bioblitz 2020 project or the Lost 40 Self-guided Bioblitz 2020 and check the project journal postings for event updates, guidelines and tips, before visiting the SNA site.

Participants can also join the La Salle Lake SNA self-guided iNaturalist Bioblitz Facebook event and the Lost 40 SNA Self-guided Bioblitz Facebook event.

Along with prizes, results will be shared with participants, and verified research grade plant observations will be added to the plant lists on the webpage.

Interested in participating in a Bioblitz? Here are some things to wear and bring along with you to the SNA:

  • Dress for the weather. To prevent tick bites and poison ivy contact, wear long sleeves and long pants tucked into socks and wear lightly colored clothing to spot ticks more easily. Also consider wearing sturdy footwear, sunscreen, bug spray and a hat.

  • Bring snacks and water. But throw away your trash and don’t litter.

  • Bring observation tools. Participants might want to be prepared with a hand lens, binoculars, a notebook and field guides.

  • Bring a boot brush if you have it. This will allow you to clean off your boots before and after your visit to prevent the spread of invasive species.