Rules and Regulations

Regulations sign on the refuge - USFWS.

There are lots of fun, interesting, and educational things you can do on the refuge. Keep in mind, if an activity is not wildlife related there are probably restrictions governing this activity. Please check with the visitor services staff before participating in an activity that could harm the environment or yourself. There are plenty of activities at Patuxent for you to enjoy. Be safe and have fun!

The refuge is open to wildlife observation, interpretation, environmental education, nature photography, fishing, hunting, and related uses. To protect the natural resources on the refuge and to provide all visitors with a safe and enjoyable wildlife experience please observe all refuge signs and regulations in handouts and brochures. It is the visitor's responsibility to respect and obey refuge regulations to ensure that wildlife has a place to grow and survive for future generations. In all cases, public access, use, or recreational activities not specifically permitted are prohibited. Please inquire at the North Tract Visitor Contact Station 301-497-5770 or the National Wildlife Visitor Center 301-497-5763 to ensure that your activity is permitted. All visitors to the refuge are expected to comply with local, state and federal laws and regulations. The speed limit is 25 mph unless posted otherwise.

Permitted Activities

  • Wildlife observation, nature photography, interpretation and nature study.
  • Hiking on designated trails.
  • Hunting in accordance with refuge-specific and state hunting regulations.
  • Fishing in accordance with refuge-specific and state fishing regulations.
  • Dog walking.
    • Leash is required and must no more than 6 feet in length.
    • Pet must be under control of the owner at all times.
    • Pets are not allowed in refuge ponds or waterways.
    • Dog waste must be collected and removed from the refuge.
  • On North Tract Only
    • Biking, jogging, cross-country skiing, horseback riding and scout camping in designated areas only.
    • Driving on the North Tract Wildlife Loop.
  • On South Tract Only:
    • Vehicle access and biking on the entrance and exit roads only.
    • Fishing from small boats (only canoes, kayaks, inflatables and small car-top boats 14” and under) on Cash Lake only.

Prohibited Activities

  • Swimming, tubing, rafting, sunbathing, picnicking, and littering.
  • Consuming alcoholic beverages.
  • Entering or remaining on the refuge while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances.
  • Traveling off roads, off trails and in closed areas unless authorized.
  • Feeding, capturing, trapping or releasing animals.
  • Collecting, removing, disturbing, injuring, or destroying plants, animals, or objects of antiquity or any other natural object alive or dead, with the exception of legally harvested game and fish or as otherwise allowed under a special use permit.
  • Soliciting, advertising, or conducting a commercial enterprise.
  • Using mechanical or electronic devices to lure or attract wildlife unless authorized by the refuge manager.
  • Unleashing pets and other domestic animals including horses.
  • Possessing a firearm or weapon except in accordance with State and Federal law.
  • Firearms are prohibited in all federal buildings unless specifically authorized.
  • Using ATVs on all areas of the refuge.
  • Operating unmanned aircraft including drones.

Visitor safety and wildlife conservation are top priorities at the refuge. At times, sections of the refuge may be closed on short notice due to wildlife needs, safety, weather, and special projects. The refuge manager reserves the right to close all or part of the refuge to public access at any time. The refuge is also subject to federal, state, and local laws and regulations. To help make your visit safe and enjoyable, please call or monitor this website for current hours of operation before visiting.