Big Stone Lake, Minnesota & South Dakota, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Big Stone Lake.

If you’re considering Big Stone Lake vacation rentals, we’ve made it super easy to explore accommodations and nearby hotels using the interactive map below. Simply click on a listing to compare similar properties, best rates and availability for your dates. Or keep scrolling to read our Big Stone Lake guide!

Big Stone Lake visitor and community guide

Big Stone Lake’s sparkling blue water covers 12,360 acres and forms the border between western Minnesota and northeastern South Dakota. This picturesque lake dates back 20,000 years to the last ice age when glacial Lake Agassiz passed through the Traverse Gap and emptied into glacial River Warren. The valley of that prehistoric river is now Big Stone Lake. Scientists have discovered skeletons of humans that lived near the lake 12,000 years ago, and there is proof that an Indian-like people made their home near the lake in ancient times. Big Stone Lake gets its name from a Sioux word for the granite that was found in a nearby Minnesota Valley.

Big Stone Lake is fed by the Little Minnesota River from the north and by the Whetstone River from the south. Big Stone Lake is the source of the Minnesota River; flow from the lake to the Minnesota River is controlled by the Big Stone Lake Dam, which is owned and operated by the State of Minnesota. The 26-mile-long freshwater lake, which is approximately one mile wide and 965 feet above sea level, is also a reservoir for the Minnesota Valley. In addition to recreation, Big Stone Lake provides for fish and wildlife propagation, livestock watering, and irrigation.

A favorite spot for boaters, swimmers and anglers, Big Stone Lake has an average depth of 8 feet with a maximum depth of 16 feet. Sixty-two miles of emerald green shoreline are dotted with fabulous vacation resorts, boat launches, and 12 public access areas for fishing. If fishing is what brings you to the lake, you will delight in the abundance and variety of fish species: walleye, white bass, northern pike, bluegill, crappie, rock bass and over 30 other species can be found in Big Stone Lake.

Two magnificent state parks near the lake–Big Stone Lake Park in Minnesota and Hartford Beach State Park in South Dakota–offer visitors and residents a never-ending selection of fun and entertainment. Picnic areas, boat launches, camping facilities, swimming areas, and walking and hiking trails can be found at both parks. Sunbathers can soak in some rays at the water’s edge or while out on a boat.

While nothing beats a dip in the cool refreshing lake on a hot summer day, if you are looking for fun out of the water try bird watching, visiting the Big Stone County Museum, shopping for antiques, playing 18 holes of golf, or checking out the educational center and learning about the history of the lake and the surrounding area. The Charles Hanson North American Wildlife Collection, located on the grounds of the Big Stone County Museum, features a fascinating collection of over 500 waterfowl along with exotic birds and animals from around the world.

Ortonville, Minnesota is the closest town to the lake and along with Big Stone City, South Dakota hosts a variety of events such as horse rides, world class fishing tournaments, historic boat tours and a yearly Corn Fest. Ortonville offers winter recreation too. Cross-country skiing is a favorite activity, and there is a growing interest in snowmobiling due to an increase in challenging but well-marked trails.

Big Stone Lake offers breathtaking views and year-round recreation for the entire family. So when considering your next vacation destination or contemplating a new permanent residence, choose Big Stone Lake and you will surely be satisfied.

Custom Big Stone Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Big Stone Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Museum
  • Antiquing
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Big Stone Lake

  • Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye
  • White Bass

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Big Stone Lake

The Big Stone Lake map shown above is a simple and stress-free way to search for trip accommodations. But if you want to take a deeper dive to find the ideal waterfront home, cabin, condo, hotel or resort, visit our favorite lodging partners by clicking the buttons below.

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Big Stone Lake photo gallery

New photos coming soon!

Big Stone Lake statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: State of Minnesota

Surface Area: 12,360 acres

Shoreline Length: 62 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 965 feet

Average Depth: 8 feet

Maximum Depth: 16 feet

Water Volume: 98,880 acre-feet

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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