About the Refuge

River Habitat at Big Stone NWR

Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1975, consists of 11,586 acres of tallgrass prairie, wetlands, granite outcrops and river woodlands. Eleven miles of the Minnesota River flow through the refuge.

The refuge is part of the Big Stone-Whetstone River Project of Minnesota and South Dakota. The land was originally purchased by Army Corps of Engineers and transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The valley where the refuge is located was carved out thousands of years ago by the melting ice from glaciers that formed the immense and ancient Lake Agassiz. At some point in time, Lake Agassiz overflowed its southern end, releasing torrents of water that eroded a river bed named the glacial River Warren. Today, the quiet Minnesota River occupies the bottom of the old glacial river.

The primary purpose of the refuge as stated in authorizing documents is to provide habitat for migratory birds, fish and wildlife conservation, and recreation. The refuge's principal objective is to provide optimum nesting cover for ground-nesting waterfowl production.