The Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center features a number of permanent display cases intended to inform visitors about the history, wildlife, ecosystems,  and natural landscape in and around Lake Elmo’s Sunfish Lake Park. These displays were lovingly researched, developed and built by our team of dedicated volunteers. Additionally, our center maintains a rotation of temporary displays, many geared towards our younger visitors, with tactile and interactive features. While you’re here, you can always help yourself to a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, and remember to ask to see the bees, busily working year-round in our indoor apiary. Throughout the year we host events for nature lovers of all ages, so keep an eye on our event calendar.


The SMINC is located on one acre of land in Lake Elmo’s Sunfish Lake Park. What you see on that land changes with the seasons, but there is always something interesting. Check out our Prairie Plant Specimen walk and the bluebird houses lining our acre. One of our newest additions, so new we are still adding to it, is the Tree Trek. Developed in cooperation with the Washington County Master Gardeners Tree Squad, the Tree Trek is an interactive tour of the different tree species you will find in our region. Enjoy the Storybook Stroll, Rain Gardens, and Apothecary Garden. In winter, see what critter tracks you can find.

Sunfish Lake Park:

The Sunfish Lake Park has five miles of walking “multi-use” trails and five miles of bike trails. Come and enjoy a beautiful day in the park. Stop at the reception desk to pick up a scavenger hunt sheet, a trail map, and other information, or check out kids’ binoculars, magnifying glasses or snowshoes—we’ve got lots of great stuff to complement your family hike, just ask!
Longtime friend of the Nature Center, and late Board Member, John Neitge, developed a series of wonderful hikes through the park, and left them as his legacy to the center. You can view them here: JohnNeitges_Guide
Sunfish Lake Park also has about five miles of one-way single-track mountain biking trails. Please check for trail condition information. The Lake Elmo City Council voted to accept the Sunfish Lake Park User Group recommendation that there should be no hiking on the bike trails and no biking on the multi-user trails, which are reserved for hiking, horseback, nature walks, skiing, snowshoeing, and so on. The intent was to improve trail safety for all users by reducing the travel speed differences. User compliance will be appreciated by all.
The Sunfish Lake Park Trail User Group meets occasionally to consider recommendations to the Lake Elmo Parks Commission for trail improvements. If you are interested in participating in this group, please email

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