Visit Us

Big Stone Wetland Management District offers the outdoor enthusiast an opportunity to escape from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with nature. If your passion is hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, interpretation, environmental education or photography, a visit to Big Stone Wetland Management District is for you.

The tallgrass prairie region is one of extremes. Temperatures can drop to well below -20° F in the winter months and rise to 90° F during the summer. Summertime also marks the season of fast-moving thunderstorms. Dress appropriately and bring extra clothing along with weather appropriate head protection. Keep an eye to the sky and check the weather forecast before your outing, as daily weather conditions can bring dramatic change! Insect repellent is also a good idea as warm weather brings mosquitoes and ticks.

Driving Directions

Big Stone Wetland Management District is administered by Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge and collocated at the headquarters office in Odessa, Minnesota.

From Ortonville Minnesota, drive south on Highway 7/75 and then drive south on Big Stone County Road 19, approximately three-quarters of a mile. The refuge headquarters is on the west side of the road.

Big Stone Wetland Management District
44843 County Road 19
Odessa, MN 56276

Fees

There is no charge to visit.

Restrooms

There are no restrooms or comfort stations located at Big Stone Wetland Management District.

Points of Interest

Visitors are welcome to stop by the district office located at 44843 County Road 19, Odessa Minnesota 56276. The office is open Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Inside, you’ll find various interpretive and educational displays, as well as additional information about how you can enjoy the district. From here, you will need to travel at least 1 hour south before reaching many of the Waterfowl Production Areas open for your exploration and connection to your natural heritage. Two specific habitats of interest are:

Prairie Potholes Prairie Potholes
These freshwater marshes are found in the upper Midwestern prairies, especially the Dakotas and Minnesota. Depressions that were created by retreating glaciers about 10,000 years ago;, they fill with water during spring, providing important habitat for waterfowl and many other species. Indeed, the…

Learn more about Prairie Potholes

Prairie pothole wetlands are small, shallow marshes that were formed by retreating glaciers. Once, the landscape was dotted with many thousands of these wetlands. Today, more than half of the original wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region have been drained or filled in for agriculture and other human development. Pothole wetlands sometimes have standing water for just a few weeks in the spring, while some hold water permanently. Landscapes that include both temporary and permanently flooded potholes can support the greatest amount of wildlife. Pothole wetlands are also important for water quality and water storage.

Tallgrass Prairie

To the uninitiated, a prairie may look like “just a lot of grass.” Slow down and take some time to really look and you will see that the prairie is an incredibly diverse and lovely place. Some of the higher quality prairies in Big Stone Wetland Management District have more than 100 species of grasses and wildflowers. The best time to view wildflowers in a prairie is during the year following a prescribed burn prescribed burn
A prescribed burn is the controlled use of fire to restore wildlife habitat, reduce wildfire risk, or achieve other habitat management goals. We have been using prescribed burn techniques to improve species habitat since the 1930s.

Learn more about prescribed burn
– the plants are at their most lush and showy then.

What To Do

Hiking

Big Stone Wetland Management District is a great place to take in a self-guided hike. When planning your visit, please take precaution during hunting season and wear blaze orange.

All 23 waterfowl production areas within Big Stone Wetland Management District offer opportunities for outdoor recreation. Each waterfowl production area waterfowl production area
Waterfowl production areas are small natural wetlands and grasslands within the National Wildlife Refuge System that provide breeding, resting and nesting habitat for millions of waterfowl, shorebirds, grassland birds and other wildlife. Virtually all waterfowl production areas are in the Prairie…

Learn more about waterfowl production area
is managed to provide visitors a genuine experience of the tallgrass prairie and the prairie pothole region as it once existed. These areas offer you open hiking across a combined 4,000 acres of grasslands and wetlands in a landscape that contains some of the best waterfowl breeding habitat in Minnesota.

Hunting

Hunters enjoy a wide variety of opportunities to hunt on waterfowl production areas in the district. The most popular game species are ring-necked pheasant, waterfowl and deer. The most common waterfowl species include Canada geese, mallards and blue-winged teals, with the fall migration bringing several other species to the district.

Waterfowl production areas are open to hunting according to state regulations unless otherwise posted. Nontoxic shot is required for hunting on all waterfowl production areas except for deer hunting.

For more information and specific regulations regarding hunting on Big Stone Wetland Management District, please refer to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. For additional information, contact the district office at 320-273-2191.

Fishing

Waterfowl production areas are open to public fishing. Anglers must follow state regulations.

For more information and specific regulations regarding fishing on Big Stone Wetland Management District, please refer to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. For additional information, contact the district office at 320-273-2191.

Environmental Education

One of our most important roles in the National Wildlife Refuge System is to serve as an outdoor classroom for the American people. The district’s education program focuses on increasing understanding of the ecological significance of this area and developing a life-long appreciation of the prairie pothole region’s biological diversity. Educational programs are often conducted in collaboration with partner agencies. The district staff delivers off-site presentations, participates in several annual environmental education programs, supports citizen science projects, and hosts community-based celebrations.

Photography

Perhaps the fastest growing activity on National Wildlife Refuge System lands in the past 10 years has been wildlife photography. That’s not surprising – the explosion of digital camera and cell phone usage, combined with ever-improving picture-taking abilities, is increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate. You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started. A small camera or basic cell phone camera will do just fine for most visitors.

Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and refuge system lands naturally are at the top of the list. Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the refuge system. We encourage beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures. Big Stone Wetland Management District is a great place to observe and photograph wildlife. All activity is self-guided. When planning your visit, please take precaution during hunting season and wear blaze orange.

Wildlife Viewing

Waterfowl production areas are great places for you to observe and photograph wildlife. All activity is self-guided. When planning your visit, please take precaution during hunting season and wear blaze orange. Wildlife viewing opportunities are abundant, especially during the spring and fall migration, where you might see up to 17 species of waterfowl and more than 23 species of shorebirds. Look for waterfowl species like mallards, blue-winged teal, northern shoveler and Canada geese. You’re likely to see shorebird species as well, including killdeer, yellowlegs and sandpipers. Big Stone Wetland Management District is also a great place to see birds of prey, like bald eagles, red-tailed hawks and kestrels. During the spring and summer months many species of birds will be breeding and nesting on the waterfowl production areas.

Know Before You Go

Keep an eye to the sky and check the weather forecast before your outing as daily weather conditions can bring dramatic change! Insect repellent is also a good idea as warm weather brings mosquitoes and ticks.

Visitor Tips

When planning a trip to the district, it is important to bring and use the appropriate gear for your planned activities. District lands are open year round and recreation opportunities abound. You should consider bringing water, food, binoculars, field guides, maps, sunscreen, insect repellent, pertinent regulations and anything else that might make your outdoor experience more enjoyable in the season you plan to visit. Also, be aware that road conditions vary. Many roads to waterfowl production areas are surfaced with gravel and some are minimum maintenance roads that are often not passable without a four-wheel drive vehicle. For specific road condition information, please contact the district office at 320-273-2191.

Activities

From the many waterfowl production areas within Big Stone Wetland Management District, to the many varied units within Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, we offer you ample opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

Other Facilities in the Complex

Rules and Policies

We welcome you to visit Big Stone Wetland Management District year round to learn about the prairie, wetlands and to recreate. We ask that you follow our specific public use regulations and reach out to our district manager if you have questions. For additional information, contact the district office at 320-273-2191.

Locations

Big Stone Wetland Management District
44843 County Road 19 Odessa, MN 56276-2062
Hours
Office Hours (located at Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge)
Monday - Friday, excluding federal holidays. The office may be closed due to weather if local schools are closed.
8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
District Lands Hunting Hours
Follow hours set by the Minnesota state hunting regulations
Except where noted