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Lighthouse at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Steve Hillebrand, USFWS.

What Can You do on a Refuge?

The National Wildlife Refuge System is the world’s most unique network of lands and waters set aside specifically for conservation of fish, wildlife, and plants. Encompassing millions of acres throughout the United States, national wildlife refuges provide multiple opportunities for visitors to experience nature in many different ways.

Download the National Wildlife Refuge System Recreation and Education fact sheet..

Environmental education

Hoping to invest in future generations, many national wildlife refuges provide environmental education programs, ranging from interpretive nature walks for local school children to full-scale teacher-training programs.


Several refuges have both visitor centers and interpretive signs on site for citizens to engage nature on their own, but many also feature guided tours led by FWS employees and local volunteers.


Nature photography gives refuge visitors the chance to be still, silent, and patient as they become engrossed in the challenge of capturing rare glimpses of the natural world with a camera lens.

Learn more about photography on refuges.

Wildlife observation

From watching migrating songbirds, listening to mating calls of frogs and toads, to watching brilliant sunsets, refuges provide opportunities for all of the senses to engage in gaining insight into wild communities.


Sometimes called the “first conservationists”, hunters have played a role in the conservation of the nation’s wildlife resources since the late 19th century. By participating in wildlife management and the purchasing of duck stamps, hunting maintains the health of the nation’s refuges, and helps provide funds to keep them healthy.

Learn more about hunting on refuges.


Interacting with aquatic life of refuges is an age-old pastime that not only provides recreational pleasure, but also generates tremendous economic conservation benefit through taxes on fishing equipment.

Learn more about fishing on refuges.

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