Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1966 in cooperation with the State of Maine to protect valuable salt marshes and estuaries for migratory birds. Located along 50 miles of coastline in York and Cumberland counties, the refuge consists of 11 divisions between Kittery and Cape Elizabeth. The proximity of the refuge to the coast and its location between the eastern deciduous forest and the boreal forest creates a composition of plants and animals not found elsewhere in Maine. Major habitat types present on the refuge include forested upland, barrier beach/dune, coastal meadows, tidal salt marsh, and the distinctive rocky coast.

Update: May 25, 2024.
Service to open new Office and Visitor Center in Kennebunk, ME 
Center to showcase the career and contributions of Rachel Carson

Lots of excitement here on Brown Street.  The majority of demolition has been completed and we are excited to move forward with the north addition which will house the Lobby, Exhibit Space and Multi-Purpose room.  Additionally, interior framing is underway on the first floor of the existing building and the start of framing at the new addition is fast approaching.  This is an incredible location to share with the turkeys, deer and song birds, as well as the views of the Mousam River.

"I'm very happy with the way this project is progressing.  It's exciting to watch our vision coming to life!" Visitor Services Manager, T. Wall. 

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge Berwick-York Focus Area Offer Hunting Opportunities 

Rachel Carson NWR and Great Thicket NWR are seeking public review and comment on its Supplemental Environmental Assessment (EA) for hunting. The refuges will eliminate use of lead ammunition for all hunting starting September 1, 2026. Until then, over the next 3 years we will provide outreach and education opportunities for hunters to learn about lead impacts and available alternatives. We will initially encourage the voluntary use of non-lead ammunition for hunting.

Please note that we have not made any significant changes to the previous September 2022 hunting plan -- there are no new changes to species, seasons, acreages, methods of take, or regulations. The Supplemental EA is focused on the further analysis of potential impacts of lead ammunition and utilizes the latest research and best available science where applicable. The updated information provides another opportunity for public review and comment; however, much of the written text transferred from the 2022 plan remains unchanged.

Draft documents are available online here:Final Hunt Plan 2023-2024

Become a Junior Ranger

Earn one of three junior ranger badges by completing the level of engagement that you choose.  Meet Rachel Carson, walk the trail through the forest, past the saltmarsh and end at the sea.  Explore animal tracks and bird calls as well as the Junior Duck Stamp Program. Bring your book to the visitor center where a ranger will issue you a badge.

Download your guide!  Remember if you print to set your printer to "print two sided and flip on short edge".

Also available in Portuguese

Visit Us

Coastal Maine is a destination for both national and international visitors. Visitors are drawn to the area's beaches, rocky coastline, and forests every year. Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge offers an alternative for those seeking solitude and a connection with nature. 

While our main purpose is to protect wildlife and natural resources, the refuge offers a variety of ways for the public to experience and appreciate its protected public lands including three main nature trails and many wildlife observation stations featuring every habitat type found on the refuge, hunting and fishing opportunities, interpretive and educational programs, a visitor information center, many volunteering opportunities, as well as other recreational activities.  

For information on trails, wildlife viewing and photography, and other recreational opportunities at the refuge, click on the button below.

Location and Contact Information

      What We Do

      Land Acquisition
      Across the country, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is interested in continuing the work of protecting natural and working lands, restoring habitat on open land and salt marshes and acquiring properties from willing sellers that lie in close proximity to existing refuge lands. Here in southern Maine, the refuge is currently purchasing lands and conservation easements from willing sellers. A conservation easement conservation easement
      A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency or qualified conservation organization that restricts the type and amount of development that may take place on a property in the future. Conservation easements aim to protect habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife by limiting residential, industrial or commercial development. Contracts may prohibit alteration of the natural topography, conversion of native grassland to cropland, drainage of wetland and establishment of game farms. Easement land remains in private ownership.

      Learn more about conservation easement
      is a transaction where the owner retains the land as their private property but conveys certain rights that protect the property’s wildlife habitat in perpetuity. We also gratefully accept land donations when they contribute to refuge purposes.
      If you would like to talk about the benefits of protecting your land and integrating it into the National Wildlife Refuge System, please reach out to me by phone or e-mail using my contact information below. I have attached links describing the work of the Rachel Carson NWR and our Realty Division for your review on the second page of this letter. I hope to hear from you soon!

      Karl Stromayer, Refuge Manager
      Phone: 207-206-6735
      Email: Karl_Stromayer@fws.gov

      Original Letter and Links 

      Our Organization

      A bright blue sky obstructed by fluffy white clouds reflected off of a stream shot from inside a kayak
      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages an unparalleled network of public lands and waters called the National Wildlife Refuge System. With more than 570 refuges spanning the country, this system protects iconic species and provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities on Earth.

      Our Species

      Southern coastal Maine contains a greater diversity of upland plant and animal species than any other part of the state. Yet, this biologically rich area is the most densely populated part of Maine, and continues to experience rapid growth. The refuge divisions, distributed along 50 miles of Maine's southern coast, lie in the heart of that region. Along with salt marshes the refuge supports other coastal habitats including dune grassland, beach, subtidal and intertidal mudflats, marine open water, tidal river, maritime shrubland, and upland forest. Those habitats provide critical buffers for the salt marsh salt marsh
      Salt marshes are found in tidal areas near the coast, where freshwater mixes with saltwater.

      Learn more about salt marsh
      and habitat for many aquatic and upland species of conservation concern. 

      Our Library

      2023 RCNWR Internship Flyer 508 Compliant.pdf

      2023 RCNWR Internship Flyer for Avian Monitor and Salt Marsh Interns

      Get Involved

      There are so many ways to get involved at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Some activities may involve tasks such as winter rabbit tracking, habitat restoration, plant propagation, and invasive plant removal. Share your knowledge of the natural world by performing surveys or lend a hand at our visitor center by helping orient visitors to the area. We also host several volunteer days throughout the year that will appeal to anyone who would like to get their hands dirty. This is a great opportunity to learn about the refuge, what we do to protect wildlife and their habitat, gain experience, meet new people, and have fun!

      Please call (207) 535-9145, to sign up for the volunteer email list and learn more about the refuge. 

      Projects and Research

      Refuge staff conserves, creates, and restores habitats to benefit a diversity of wildlife. We focus on the highest priority lands; salt marshes, tidal rivers, forests, beaches, and thickets. These areas are home to many animals, both common and rare. Of course we don’t do it alone, we work closely with our conservation partners and communities.