- Big Stone NWR is part of the Big Stone Lake-Whetstone River Project of Minnesota and South Dakota. The Project was authorized under the Flood Control Act of 1965. The lands were purchased in fee title by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1971 and transferred to the Service in 1975. Overlaying the Minnesota River Valley, the refuge contains 11,521 acres; 1,028 acres in Big Stone County and 10,493 acres in Lac Qui Parle County. The refuge is located in Minnesota's second Congressional District.
Unique features include the lichen covered granite outcrops for which the refuge was named and the nearly 2,000 acres of native tall grass prairie. The only population of the ball cactus (Mammillaria vivipara) in Minnesota is located on the refuge. The primary refuge purposes stated in authorizing documents are flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife conservation.
The Refuge serves as a wintering area for white-tailed deer and has wintered as many as 1,200 animals. It is also a major migratory stopover for 21 species of waterfowl. The refuge principle objective is to provide optimum nesting cover for ground nesting waterfowl production. The present annual visitation for the Refuge is approximately 30,000 visitors.