Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge is part of the Big Lake Complex, a large drainage area beginning with Hailstone to the north and ending at the state-owned and managed Big Lake to the south. This complex is one of the most productive areas in central Montana for waterfowl. This area was established by Executive Order as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.
A large alkaline lake, the Hailstone Refuge is in wide-open short grass prairie country dominated by rocky outcroppings and small grassy hills. Look for blacktailed prairie dogs, golden eagles and hawks, burrowing owls, sharp-tailed grouse and pronghorn antelope. As for the birds, watch for flocks of eared grebes, American wigeons and northern shovelers, mallards, gadwalls, redheads, canvasbacks, American avocets, phalaropes, American white pelicans and sometimes, thousands of Franklin's gulls, lark buntings and vesper sparrows. More than 200 species of birds can be seen here and many are drawn by Hailstone Lake, a 300-acre reservoir created in the 1930s!
Hailstone Basin was the location of a gun battle between Piegen and Crow warriors who enlisted the help of local ranchers from Park City on February 16, 1885. The Piegens had stole numerous horses from both parties and fled to this site where two ranchers and one Piegen warrior were killed in the ensuing battle.
It has 160 acres of fee title refuge, 760 acres of refuge easement and 1,828 acres of Waterfowl Production Area (WPA). The habitat component valuable to waterfowl and other wildlife at this site is a 300 acre reservoir. The area surrounding this refuge use to be short grass prairie, and over the years it was plowed and planted to wheat. Hailstone NWR was managed as a no-hunting refuge from the mid 1930's until 1980 when the WPA was acquired.
While no recreation facilities are available, the refuge is open to hunting, hiking, and bird watching. In addition to compliance with all applicable state hunting regulations, non-toxic shot must be used to harvest waterfowl and upland game birds.