This canoe route begins below Ortonville, although the river's headwaters are near Browns Valley on the Minnesota-South Dakota border. The river enters Big Stone Lake (also on the border), where fishing attracts many boaters. The lake is large, though, and windy days make for rough canoeing. For those who'd like to stay for sailing or boating on the lake, there is a campground at Big Stone Lake State Park, northwest of Ortonville.
About 4 miles below Ortonville and Big Stone Lake, the Minnesota River widens into the reservoir that forms part of the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge and its two downriver neighbors, the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area and Lac qui Parle State Park, form a string of public lands that stretches for more than 40 miles along the upper Minnesota. Read more: