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Visitor Activities

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Ouray Refuge offers a wide variety of outdoor activities, suitable for every age and for many different interests.  Visitors can enjoy the scenic beauty and enormous array of wildlife observation opportunities. The best times to visit are in spring and fall, during early morning and early evening hours, when animals are most active.

  • Wildlife Viewing

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    If you enjoy getting outdoors and looking for wildlife, consider a visit to Ouray Refuge!  From birding to viewing speedy pronghorn or slow-moving porcupines, wildlife observation is the most popular activity for Refuge visitors.

    A 9-mile self-guided auto tour route winds through a variety of Refuge habitats, providing excellent wildlife viewing. Visitors traveling this route will have opportunities to see ducks, geese, cranes, herons, and a variety of shorebirds in the Refuge wetland areas. The road meets and follows the river where red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, great horned owls, songbirds, and porcupines can be seen in the cottonwood and willow trees. As the tour route travels up the clay bluffs onto the grasslands, white-tailed prairie dogs and pronghorns can be seen on both sides of the road along with western meadowlarks, sage sparrows, and black-tailed and white-tailed jackrabbits.   

    A wildlife viewing area, adjacent to the farm fields near the Visitor Center, provides opportunities to see Canada geese and mallards by the thousands in spring and fall. During this same time of year, other species, such as red-winged blackbirds, American goldfinches, horned larks, and savannah sparrows, can also be seen in the croplands. Look for bald and golden eagles perched on nearby cottonwoods hunting for smaller bird and mammal species. From September through November mule deer, elk, and pheasant become more active and easier to see.    

  • Hunting

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    Hunting is an important wildlife management tool that we recognize as a healthy, traditional outdoor pastime, deeply rooted in America’s heritage.  Hunting can instill a unique understanding and appreciate of wildlife, their behavior, and their habitat needs.

    As practiced on refuges, hunting, trapping and fishing do not pose a threat to wildlife populations, and in some instances are necessary for sound wildlife management.  For example, because their natural predators are gone, deer populations will often grow too large for the refuge habitat to support.  

    Hunting on the Ouray Refuge is permitted for ducks, geese, coots, pheasants, deer, elk and turkeys ONLY in designated areas with seasons and weapons restrictions.  For more information on Refuge hunting areas, maps and regulations download the Hunting and Fishing Regulations or call Refuge staff at 435-545-2522.  For information on Utah State hunting licenses, seasons, and regulations check out the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources website.    

  • Fishing

    In addition to the conservation of wildlife and habitat, the Refuge System offers a wide variety of quality fishing opportunities.  Fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the Refuge System. For a great place to reconnect with a favorite childhood activity or to try it for the first time, make plans to fish at Ouray Refuge soon.  We have an accessible fishing pier on the Sheppard Bottom auto tour road. Most of Utah and the Refuge's fish species are non-native fish. The main fish to be caught in the Green River is channel catfish, but there are several other non-native and native fish species as well. Please be aware that razorback suckers, Colorado pikeminnows, humpback chub and bonytails are endangered fish species found in the river and must be returned to the river unharmed if accidentally caught.  

    Ouray Refuge fishing regulations and locations can be found in our Hunting and Fishing Regulations information sheet.  Find more information about fishing on refuges with our online Guide to Fishing on National Wildlife Refuges. 

    For more information on Utah State fishing licences, limits, and more, please visit the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources fishing page. For more information on Utah fish species, check out the Utah Division of Wildlife Resource's FISH IDENTIFIER page.  

  • Interpretation

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    Ouray Refuge interpretation programs provide opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to the natural world.  From self-guided walks to ranger-led programs, we help visitors learn more about the wildlife and habitat behind the landscapes.

    Ouray Refuge has a Visitor Center, adjacent to the Headquarters office, where visitors can learn about the Green River and the plants and wildlife they may see on the Refuge.  Exhibits include skulls, skins, antlers, bird nests, eggs and feathers, and bird calls.  There are also displays about the history of the area.  Posters and brochures, including bird, butterfly, and plant lists for the Refuge, are available.

    The Ouray Refuge auto tour route also includes a series of interpretive signs about Refuge habitats and wildlife.  

  • Environmental Education

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    The staff at Ouray Refuge knows that one of our most important roles is as an outdoor classroom to teach about wildlife and natural resources.  We offer environmental education programs for a variety of audiences. We host school groups for Refuge tours. One of our biggest events is the annual Open House in May, where numerous stations allow visitors to learn about Refuge wildlife, biological research (including radio-telemetry and songbird mist-netting), aquatic insects, archaeology, prescribed burning, and wetlands.

    Is your school, youth, environmental or other group interested in learning more about the wildlife, plants, habitats and ecology of Ouray Refuge?  Contact or visit us to check on program availability. Refuges are wild places, and we want to teach you more about them!

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  • Photography

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    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past 10 years has been wildlife photography.  You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started.  A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

    Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and national wildlife refuges naturally are at the top of the list. Ouray Refuge provides excellent opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing a platform/pier, a viewing tower, brochures, viewing areas, and a tour route.  Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System.  We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike! 

  • Other activities

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    Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, canoeing, and rafting, are also welcomed activities at the Refuge. There is a 1.3 mile hiking trail through Sheppard Bottom, which can be accessed from the auto tour route. Canoeing and rafting are permitted only on the Green River, and are not allowed on any wetland areas.  Please note that off-road vehicle travel is prohibited.

Page Photo Credits — American bittern: Copyright Linda West, Elk herd: USFWS photo, Environmental ed: USFWS photo, Mule deer: Copyright John Savage, Wildlife viewing: USFWS photo, Uintah Basin hookless cactus: USFWS photo, Sunset: USFWS photo
Last Updated: Aug 13, 2014
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