Located in Decatur, AL, the refuge attracts thousands of wintering waterfowl each year as well as manages and protects habitat for 12 federally endangered or threatened species.

VISITOR CENTER AREA - Partially Open (updated 1/10/2023)

  • OPEN: The new Hiking and Bicycling Trail (5.5 miles total mileage) is now open for use.  The gravel parking lot and trailhead can be accessed by turning left at the Refuge Information Kiosk located near the beginning of the Visitor Center Entrance Road.  Open daylight hours only.
  • OPEN: The Wildlife Observation Building, Wildlife Photography Blind, Atkeson Cypress Boardwalk, and Visitor Center grounds are open.  Hours will be 7 days/week, 9:00-5:00.  These facilities WILL be open on Martin Luther King Jr Day (1/16).
  • CLOSED: The Visitor Center building will remain closed throughout the winter as work continues on its interior and its new interpretive exhibits.
  • Portable toilets are available in the visitor center parking lot, including one ADA portable toilet, but visitors are encouraged to use restroom facilities before visiting the refuge.
  • Group visits will not be scheduled through at least May 2023 to allow staff to focus on reopening facilities.
  • During the Festival of the Cranes 1/13-1/15, bird walks and bird watching will be available at the refuge, but all other special events and activities will take place at venues in downtown Decatur.  Please visit https://www.friendsofwheelernwr.org/ for the festival schedule and event locations.


The Visitor Center building and part of the grounds remain closed for renovations.  For your own safety, do not enter active construction sites on the refuge.  In-person visitor services will not be available during this time.  Refuge information, maps, hunt permits, trail guides, and winter birding guides will be available at the information kiosk outside of the visitor center front gate as well as the Document Library on the bottom of this webpage.  Visitors needing further assistance should call (256) 350-6639, and leave a message, if needed.

America the Beautiful Park Passes:

Those wanting to purchase an Interagency Park Pass should call (256) 350-6639 to make an appointment and arrangements to buy the pass.

Visit Us

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is rich in wildlife and recreation opportunities. Thousands of people come to the refuge each year to enjoy solitude, to commune with nature, and to share the joys of wildlife and being outdoors with family and friends. The refuge Visitor Center and Observation Building are located near each other and should be your priority stop when visiting the refuge for the first time.

Location and Contact Information

      About Us

      Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 as a wintering area for ducks, geese and other migratory birds. Today, the refuge attracts thousands of wintering waterfowl and cranes each year. The refuge is also a winter home to the endangered whooping crane who first arrived in 2004.

      What We Do

      To help plants and wildlife, refuge staff uses a variety of habitat management techniques to maintain, recover, or enhance plant and wildlife values. Refuge staff carefully considers many management techniques and employs them in varying degrees according to the situation.

      Our Species

      Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was established as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.  A diversity of habitat types provide excellent feeding, resting, and roosting sites for wintering waterfowl and Sandhill Cranes , as well as nesting sites for neotropical migrant birds and many species of resident wildlife.

      Our Library

      Our digital library is a collection of refuge documents and brochures for you to browse. 

      Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Hunting Regulations and Permit 2022-2023 Brochure

      Public hunting on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is permitted on approximately 18,000 acres.