Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge


Area and County

    Lac qui Parle County
    Southwest Minnesota

Driving Directions

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11,521 acres, 5,000 of which are wetland


Big Stone Regulations Brochure and Map

Park Entrance

Entrance and information kiosk
N45 16.135, W96 24.647

Hiking Trails

One-mile self-guided footpath

Six-mile self-guided auto tour route (open May through September)


Gray Partridge, cottontail rabbit, jack rabbit, gray and fox squirrel, pheasant, turkey, and deer.

Ecological Classification Province  

Prairie Parkland Province

Ecological Classification

North Central Glaciated Plains


Minnesota River Prairie

Land Type Association(s)

Clinton Moraine

Havelock Lake Plain

Milan Alluvial Plain

Native Plant Communities1

Crystalline Bedrock Outcrop (Prairie): Minnesota River Subtype

Dry Hill Prairie (Southern)

Mesic Prairie (Southern)

Wet Prairie (Southern)



U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service










Visitor Photos
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Refuge Entrance

  Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge    




Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge: Nature Rocks!
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Midwest Region


Sept. 25, 2010, Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge hosted a Nature Rocks Day (Public Lands Day) event for families and youth naturalists.

Activities featured a visiting geologist from the University of Minnesota-Morris who taught visitors about the granite outcrops found on the Refuge and in the Minnesota River Valley. The Refuge biologist also talked about the plants found in association with the outcrops.

Other interactive activities for kids and families included scavenger hunts, 'rock' trivia and trail walks. Big Stone NWR is one of 14 FWS locations in the country hosting an event.

Nature Rocks is a program developed by the Children & Nature Network and ecoAmerica to inspire and empower families to play and explore in nature for healthier, happier and smarter children. The website and all related materials are updated frequently to provide families with the most current tools and information to connect with nature, including nature and event finders, community tools, over 100 activity ideas, and seasonal activity guides. Current partners are The Nature Conservancy, REI, the American Heart Association, the American Camp Association and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

To learn more about Nature Rocks and its partners, please visit,,, and




Visitor Videos
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Other Videos
  Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota - Time-lapse June 20th 2012

Published on Jun 20, 2012

First try at time-lapse with Gopro Hero2

2210 photos

8 Meg. Photo taken every 2 seconds

Played back at 24 frames/second

  Big Stone Wildlife Refuge

Uploaded on Apr 25, 2011

I came across this video while cleaning out my hard drive. It was recorded in Aug 2010. Every time I go back home, I make it a point to drive through the Big Stone Wildlife Refuge that is located in Minnesota between Ortonville and Odessa (at the bottom of the bump on western side of the state). The auto tour is about 6 miles long. It may be nothing special to some people, but it is to me for at least 3 reasons. I have edited a little to keep it under 10 min. Soundtrack is provided by Eric Lindell which I happened to be listening to at the time. If you don't like it, it doesn't matter ~ because the driver gets to choose :)




Visitor Observations
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Lynn Rubey


northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens)

northern leopard frog

American Coot (Fulica americana)

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea)

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)

Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)

Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)

Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio)

Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla)

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)

Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)

Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)

Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis)

Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius)

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus)

Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria)

Sora (Porzana carolina)

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)

Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

American White Pelican

Bald Eagle

Caspian Tern

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Lesser Yellowlegs

Northern Harrier

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-winged Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Insects and Arachnids

band-winged meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum)

blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)

bronze copper (Lycaena hyllus)

eastern forktail (Ischnura verticalis)

Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina)

monarch (Danaus plexippus)

northern crescent (Phyciodes cocyta)

painted lady (Vanessa cardui)

simple wave (Scopula junctaria)

widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

yellow-collared scape moth (Cisseps fulvicollis)

bronze copper


northern crescent


American mink (Neovison vison)

American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger)

Franklin’s ground squirrel (Spermophilus franklinii)

muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)

thirteen-lined ground squirrel (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus)

whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

American mink

Franklin’s ground squirrel


brittle prickly pear (Opuntia fragilis)

eastern purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

prairie onion (Allium stellatum)

brittle prickly pear

common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

common snapping turtle Observations

One amphibian species with conservation status in Minnesota is found here:


Special concern

mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus)


Black-crowned Night Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Hooded Merganser, Western Grebe, and many other species of waterfowl are summer residents. This is one of the few locations in Minnesota that the Snowy Egret is known to breed.


Fifteen bird species with conservation status in Minnesota and one tracked species have been seen here:



Henslow’s Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii)

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

King Rail (Rallus elegans)

Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)



Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor)


Special concern

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Forster’s Tern (Sterna forsteri)

Franklin’s Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan)

Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus)

Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa)

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Purple Martin (Progne subis)

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)



Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)


Minnesota River Valley Birding Trail

eBird Field Checklist (Odessa Overlook)

eBird Field Checklist (Kaercher Peninsula)

eBird Field Checklist (Granite Outcrop Trails)

eBird Field Checklist (East Pool)

eBird Field Checklist (west side of East Pool)

eBird Field Checklist (east side of East Pool)

eBird Field Checklist (Low Flow Area)

eBird Field Checklist (Auto Tour Road)

eBird Field Checklist (Complete)


American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Brown-headed Cowbird
Insects and Arachnids

dingy cutworm moth (Feltia jaculifera)

goldenrod soldier beetle (Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus)

dingy cutworm moth

Forty-one mammal species have been documented on this refuge, including six species with conservation status in Minnesota:



eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius)


Special concern

big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus)

moose (Alces americanus)

northern grasshopper mouse (Onychomys leucogaster)

prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster)

Richardson’s ground squirrel (Spermophilus richardsonii)


The only population of ball cactus in Minnesota is maintained in this refuge.


Seven plant species with conservation status in Minnesota and two species on the watch list are found here:



ball cactus (Escobaria vivipara var. vivipara)



disk water-hyssop (Bacopa rotundifolia)

two-headed water starwort (Callitriche heterophylla var. heterophylla)


Special concern

cut-leaf ironplant (Xanthisma spinulosum var. spinulosum)

prairie moonwort (Botrychium campestre)

three-stamened waterwort (Elatine triandra)

water mudwort (Limosella aquatica)


Watch list

Engelmann’s spikerush (Eleocharis engelmannii)

Nuttall’s alkali grass (Puccinellia nuttalliana)


Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas Plant List


Plants frequently found in:

Crystalline Bedrock Outcrop (Prairie): Minnesota River Subtype ROs12a1

Dry Hill Prairie (Southern) UPs13d

Mesic Prairie (Southern) UPs23a

Wet Prairie (Southern) WPs54b


common mullein

prairie onion




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