Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Albemarle Peninsula in eastern North Carolina. The refuge was established in 1984 to protect the rare pocosin wetlands and their associated wildlife. Pocosin wetlands grow on thick layers of peat and have stunted, shrubby vegetation. The refuge also protects swamp forest and is fringed with marsh. The vast protected area supports large populations of black bear, wintering waterfowl, river otter, and other wildlife species. In addition, the refuge is one of the only places in the world where you may see endangered red wolves in the wild.
A small black bear walks across a road cutting through forest.
Repair and wildlife management activities have led to the temporary closures of several refuge units and roads.

Visit Us

From a multi-refuge Visitor Center full of exciting exhibits to the possibility of seeing charismatic mega-fauna like red wolves and black bear, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge offers year-round opportunities for learning and adventuring. The refuge is open year-round during daylight hours. 

 Maps and Brochures

Things to Do

  • Don’t miss the National Wildlife Refuges Visitor Center on Roanoke Island and its state-of-the-art exhibits—all free! 
  • Venture to the Dare County mainland to the refuge's popular Murphy Peterson Wildlife Drive, where locals compete to see who can count the most black bear in one evening. Wildlife abounds in the farming and moist soil management units along the Wildlife Drive. Wildlife are most active in the morning and evening.
  • Want to take a leisurely stroll? There are two half-mile, universally accessible wildlife trails in beautiful, quiet and secluded places. 
  • If you are looking for adventure, a great way to explore the refuge is by canoe or kayak, using the refuge’s 15+ miles of color-coded Paddling Trails.
  • Enrich your experience by joining us for a guided interpretive program or tour. Ride on our open-air tram or learn about bears and other wildlife on the refuge!
  • For wildlife photographers, there are great photographic opportunities if you have patience and good equipment! 
  • Hunting and fishing are allowed on the refuge with restrictions.

Location and Contact Information

      What We Do

      Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It drives everything on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters managed within the Refuge System, from the purposes for which a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
      A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

      Learn more about national wildlife refuge
      is established to the recreational activities offered to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, the Refuge System manages Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species.

      Our Species

      A large reptile basking in the sun on a log over still water surrounded by green vegetation

      The American alligator is a large, semi-aquatic, armored reptile that is related to crocodiles. Their body alone ranges from 6 - 14 feet long. Almost black in color, the it has prominent eyes and nostrils with coarse scales over the entire body. It has a large, long head with visible upper teeth...

      FWS Focus
      Side view of a red wolf, showing head and shoulders

      As their name suggests, red wolves are known for the characteristic reddish color of their fur most apparent behind the ears and along the neck and legs, but are mostly brown and buff colored with some black along their backs. Intermediate in size to gray wolves and coyotes, the average adult...

      FWS Focus

      Our Library

      Alligator River and Pea Island NWR Interpretive Program Schedule

      Alligator River and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuges offer a variety of fun and educational seasonal programs on the refuge. During the summer, programs range from tram and canoe tours to preschool reading sessions and interpretive presentations. During the off season (Sep-May), the refuges...