About the Refuge


Come visit the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge to enjoy and appreciate the recreation dependent on wildlife, and celebrate the river's heritage by supporting its restoration and conservation efforts.

Refuge Contact Information

Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

18500 Brady Lane Boonville, Missouri 65233



Navigating by GPS? Enter coordinates: 38°57'17.8"N 92°36'40.6"W


For Refuge specific questions on:

  • Biology: 660-672-2802
  • Visitor services, recreation, education and outreach, website: 660-672-2806  
  • Law Enforcement: 660-672-2804
  • Habitat restoration, farming, invasive plants: 660-672-2802
  • Policy and Administration: 660-672-2801

    Hours of Operation

    The Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge welcomes the public free of charge. 


    Its Headquarters office and Visitor Contact Station at the Overton Bottoms North Unit is open Monday-Friday from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm, except on federal holidays or during life-threatening weather conditions. These offices may also close at refuge staff discretion, if hazards are identified.


    Refuge land around the Headquarters building at the Overton Bottoms North Unit is open one-half hour before sunrise, and closes one-half hour after sunset.


    Other refuge lands/units are open 24 hours a day for permitted activities.

    Refuge Background

    The historic Missouri River, nicknamed "Big Muddy" because of its murky, sediment-filled waters, serves as beneficial habitat for many wildlife species. The rivers ability to carve through floodplains and create side channels, wetlands, and oxbow lakes has attracted and sustained wildlife since the retreat of glaciers from the region thousands of years ago. Drastic changes began to occur on the Missouri River soon after the journey of Lewis and Clark described its wildlife to the world in the early 1800s. Over the next century hundreds of steamships sank in the river and efforts began to control it. By the 1980s, over 700 miles of river had been channelized, reducing risks but also crucial habitat. Because of this and further damage by major flooding, the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge was established in September of 1994 for the development, advancement, management, conservation and protection of fish and wildlife resources for the continuing benefit of the American people. 


    Download the Big Muddy brochure here to learn more!