The Elizabeth Hartwell(EH) Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge provides opportunities for the public to participate in wildlife dependent recreation. The Refuge Improvement Act of 1997 mandates that 6 specific forms of wildlife dependent recreation be provided on a national wildlife refuge if the use is compatible with the goals and objectives of the refuge. Five of the six specific uses have been found compatible at the EH Mason Neck NWR. These uses are: Wildlife Observation, Wildlife Photography, Hunting, Interpretation and Environmental Education. Fishing, the only missing wildlife dependent use, was deemed incompatible because providing access for the public to points within or along the shore of the refuge is difficult and unsafe.
Wildlife dependent recreation activities would be allowed on established roads, trails, on habitat, and in buildings that have been designed to accommodate such uses, in areas that are the least sensitive to human intrusion. Self-guided groups of 10 or more will be required to request access and obtain a Special Use Permit to visit the Refuge for these activities.
The refuge is opened year-round, from 7AM - 5PM October 1- March 31 and 7AM-7PM from April 1 - September 30. A temporary closure of the entire refuge is implemented during any scheduled refuge hunt dates. Be prepared when you visit us - Plan Your Visit.
Refuge Trails and Facilities
Joseph V. Gartlan Great Marsh Trail
Great Marsh Trail is a paved, three-quarter-mile-long, accessible trail that follows a forested ridge along a natural peninsula and ends at an observation platform overlooking the Great Marsh portion of the refuge. The observation platform features an accessible Mark1 telescope. A kiosk with informational panels is located at the beginning of the trail and it provides information about Joseph Gartlan, the Great Marsh Trail, and the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck NWR. Another information panel on the overlook contains photographs of typical plants and wildlife.
The three-mile, Woodmarsh Trail loops through a hardwood forest, carpets of ferns, over small streams, and along a marsh. Interpretive panels are located at the kiosk near the Woodmarsh Trail parking lot that display a trail map and information about the refuge. Additional panels on white-tailed deer, bald eagles, invasive plants, and wildlife that may be observed on the Woodmarsh Trail can be found at a kiosk further along the trail. Portions of the trail are closed from December through June due to bald eagle nesting requirements.
High Point Trail
The High Point Trail was dedicated at the Elizabeth Hartwell Earth Day in April of 2005. It is a multipurpose, ADA compliant trail which parallels High Point Rd. and connects the Gunston Rd. trial to trails and facilities on the refuge and the state park.
Environmental Education Pavilion and Trail
On-refuge environmental education activities occur year-round during daylight hours when the refuge is open; however, most of the field programs are associated with the fall and spring school year terms. Environmental education activities at the refuge are teacher-guided field trips exploring topics set by the teachers. The environmental education site currently includes a pavilion, two portalets, and a ½ mile environmental education trail.
The refuge hosts a big game hunt program that offers opportunities for hunting white-tailed deer under state guidelines. The Mason Neck Refuge has held an annual deer hunt since 1989. The hunt is a cooperative effort with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) and the State Department of Conservation and Recreation - Mason Neck State Park.