- Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge is located on 6 units, in various counties, along the Missouri River in the state of Missouri. The majority of the 4,500 acres that make up Big Muddy NFWR are located in the floodplain of the river. The Refuge was established in 1994 and got its name from the nickname given to the silt laden Missouri River.
The Missouri River and its floodplain have undergone dramatic changes in the 190 years following Lewis and Clark's epic journey of 1804-1806. The pre-development river was a vast complex of chutes, sloughs, backwaters, sandbars, braided channels, bottomland forests, wet prairie grasslands and seasonal and permanent wetlands resulting in dynamic conditions producing a diversity of riverine and floodplain habitats. The lower Missouri River has since experienced huge reductions in riverine habitats and concurrent declines in fish and wildlife populations. Hydrology was altered and the floodplain isolated from the River through construction of levees and flood control structures. The results were over 90 percent of the floodplain forests, wetlands and prairies being converted to agricultural lands. With the establishment and future acquisitions of the Big Muddy NFWR, the goal is to restore approximately 8 percent of the riverine habitat losses along the lower Missouri River.
Some of the migratory birds that will benefit from the establishment and continued acquisitions of the Big Muddy NFWR include: waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds and neotropical migrants. Endangered species that are likely to occur on the Refuge are pallid sturgeon, decurrent false aster, bald eagle, piping plover, least tern, peregrine falcon, gray bat and Indiana bat.