Visitor Activities

Visitor Activities at Ottawa NWR

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge provides a place for people to enjoy wildlife-dependent activities and learn about the complexities of the natural world.

  • Hunting

    Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge offers public and permit hunting opportunities. Public hunting for waterfowl and deer is available at satellite units of the refuge. These areas are open to public hunting for small game, upland birds, migratory birds, and turkey. For hunting information see the hunt brochure. Waterfowl and deer permit hunts are managed in partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. Hunters must apply for permit hunts through the Division of Wildlife process each year.

    If you have been selected for a hunt most questions can be answered by reading the specific hunt information on the Division of Wildlife website.  Many refuge hunts are part of a partnership so you may find them under Magee Ottawa.  Unit maps are available on the Hunting page.  Other questions may be answered by calling the office and leaving a message  or emailing the hunt coordinator.

    Additional information can be found on our Hunting Opportunities page.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    Ottawa Refuge provides many ways to view a variety of wildlife on land and water. Named one of the Top 10 birdwatching spots in the country, the refuge is a stop for many migrating birds in the spring and fall. Bald eagles are commonly seen on nests, roosting, or soaring above the refuge. Mudflats in the Crane Creek estuary and managed wetlands host large numbers of shorebirds. Wintering tundra swans are common in the coastal marshes and can be seen feeding in the fields surrounding the refuge. You may borrow field guides and binoculars at the visitor center to make your wildlife viewing more enjoyable.

    Additional information on recent bird sightings

  • Interpretation

    National wildlife refuges across the country provide opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to the natural world. Self-guided hikes and staff-led programs help visitors learn more about the wildlife and habitats behind the landscapes. Ottawa Refuge provides a calendar of events that highlights a variety of opportunities throughout the year. Programs and events are free, geared for youth and adults, and provide a range of opportunities that maximize first-hand experiences on the refuge. Contact the refuge for more information about upcoming programs and the calendar of events (419-898-0014 or ottawa@fws.gov).

  • Environmental Education

    National wildlife refuges serve many purposes, and one of our most important roles is as outdoor classrooms to teach about the natural environment. Ottawa Refuge’s education program focuses on increasing understanding of the ecological significance of the area and developing a life-long appreciation of wetlands and associated biological diversity. Opportunities include school field outings, educational “trunks," and classroom presentations. All activities are free and include an indoor or outdoor option to avoid poor weather. Contact the refuge to schedule a program (419-898-0014 or ottawa@fws.gov).

  • Photography

    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography. You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started. A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

    Ottawa Refuge provides enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, a photo blind, and tour routes. Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the National Wildlife Refuge System. We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures!

  • Fishing

    Fishing is allowed in designated areas in accordance with State regulations, seasons and harvest limits. The refuge prohibits the take of any turtle, frog, leech, minnow, crayfish, and mussel species by any method. Only catch and release fishing is allowed at the visitor center pond. Fishing is permitted from legal sunrise to legal sunset. Anglers must remove all boats, ice fishing structures, devices, and personal property from the refuge each day. Crane Creek and Crane Creek estuary are closed to all boats and flotation devices from State Route 2 to the mouth of Crane Creek and Lake Erie. Fishing line recycling stations are provided at all fishing areas. Please follow “Leave No Trace” principles and do not leave trash along shorelines as wildlife can become entangled and die.


    For more information including locations to fish on refuge property, rules, and dates, please see the Hunting and Fishing brochure.