By Jim Umhoefer
Big Stone County. About 6 miles northwest of Ortonville on Highway 7. Highway map index: B-15.
According to legend, Paul Bunyan's 110-ton granite anchor was found at the bottom of Big Stone Lake. Although some doubt the veracity of Bunyan's exploits, there is no doubt that the 30-mile-long Big Stone Lake (Minnesota's 10th largest) is almost spacious enough for Paul to have taken a bath.
Most visitors who come to use the lake put in from the drive-in access in Big Stone Lake State Park. Anglers are attracted by the lake's walleyes, perch and panfish. Because Big Stone Lake is a border water, the fishing season opens two weeks earlier than inland waters. Water-skiers and sail boaters enjoy lots of elbowroom on Big Stone, though winds can become powerful as they storm down the length of the narrow lake. Canoeists usually paddle close to shore unless the water is calm. Boats can be rented in the park (details at the contact station).
The park is split into two parcels. The northern section, called Bonanza, is a peaceful, quiet, day-use area. You can hike on self-guided nature trails or relax on a sandy beach.
The main campground (42 sites, 10 with electric hookups) is in the Meadowbrook area of Big Stone Lake State Park. Normally you'll have no difficulty finding a vacant site here, but holidays and weekends are usually busy. The campground is on the lakeshore, next to the picnic area and boat launch. Reservations are needed for the primitive group camp in the Bonanza section of the park.
The Meadowbook hiking trails pass by small patches of native prairie and some bluebird boxes. Deer, pleasant and Hungarian partridge may be spotted in the main-use areas of the park and in the wildlife sanctuary to the east of the fish-rearing pond.
The lake and sanctuary are excellent bird watching areas where some observers have seen pelicans (rare in Minnesota).