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Visitor Activities

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A variety of activities are available for visitors to enjoy at Stillwater NWR!

  • Guided Refuge Tours Begin!

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    Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge has scheduled FREE guided public tours once a month through February. the tours take place on Saturdays, and starting times will vary according to weather and tour topics.

    “Early Fall and Winter are a great time of year to observe migrating birds and resident wildlife on the refuge, even in this drought year” stated Visitor Services Manager Susan Sawyer. “Animals tend to concentrate near the limited water sources on the refuge, and may be easier to observe.”

    But wildlife and birds aren’t the only reason to take one of these special tours, Sawyer said. Visitors will take part in a virtual journey into the rich cultural past of the Stillwater marsh, from the days of the ‘Cat-Tail Eater’ Paiute people, to early ranching, water history, refuge projects and all will learn how to plan for and get the most out of any future refuge visits.  Sawyer stated: “We want people to feel comfortable in visiting Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge, and show that it is not the middle of nowhere – we want our public to get to know what makes this place special and why it became a National Wildlife Refuge sixty-five years ago”.

    Transportation is provided through a grant received from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Southwest Regional Office in Sacramento. The tours are open to everyone. Tours meet at the refuge information kiosk at the end of Stillwater Road, 12 miles east of Fallon on State Route 116, and last two and a half hours. Seats are limited to 16 people on each tour.

    Weather can be unpredictable, so layered clothing is advised, along with sturdy shoes. Short stops and easy walks are planned at a few locations. Binoculars are recommended, and there will be field guides and optics available to borrow from the refuge.

    Proposed tour dates are November 1, December 6, January 31 and February 14; times will vary.

    Call Stillwater NWR at 775-423-5128 ext. 228 for more information and to reserve tour seats. Deadline to register for each tour is noon the day before.

  • Waterfowl Hunt Season 2014-15 News

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    Waterfowl hunting is limited this year due to extreme drought conditions throughout Nevada. Stillwater NWR received less than 40% of their normal water deliveries, as a result of less than 30% snowpack in the Sierra Nevada range during winter 2013-14.


    Retrieval Zone closure: a reminder that a designated 'Retrieval Zone' exists north of Division Rd from road edge north for 200yds. to the marked signs in the desert. No loaded firearms are allowed in this area for the entire 6mi. length of Division Rd. No hunting is allowed along the south side of Division into the refuge sanctuary.


    South Nutgrass Lake is the primary wetland unit in the hunt zone to receive water this season. As of October 21, water deliveries have ended for the year, and this unit is full at a depth of 1.92 ft. Water is now moving through the coffer into West Nutgrass; this unit is open to hunting and easily accessed via Pintail Rd from the West parking area, about a 100yd walk beyond the cable gate.


    Rice and Olano's Landing boat launches into S. Nutgrass are accessible off of Navy Cabin Road, for all types of boats (airboat with a Special Use Permit, motorized and nonmotorized craft). Use caution when launching and navigating the access channels as submerged objects, vegetation and sand bars could be dangerous.


    Boats are allowed to launch at 5am each morning; access by foot is allowed at any time to set out decoys, make temporary blinds from natural materials, but you are not allowed to camp (either in or near your vehicle) to hold a spot in the hunt area outside of a designated overnight area. The nearest overnight area to South Nutgrass is approx. 1 mile south at the Division Rd/Nutgrass Rd intersection. No facilities other than a vault toilet, trash can and info board are available here.


    Water deliveries ended October 16; be aware of daily changing water levels and use caution when walking across wet or muddy areas as the saturated soils below the water surface are very soft and you will sink in the thick mud. Use a walking stick or other means to gauge water depth and footing.


    The new floating walkway and platform at S. Nutgrass will NOT be open for public use this year as it remains under construction. Do not attempt to walk on or use this structure since the safety features have not been installed. Barricades will be posted.


    Dog owners, please read the article in the link below for an important health warning about a bacterial infection common in warm weather and shallow water, both of which the refuge experiences in the early Fall hunt season.

    Learn More
  • Lahontan Valley Waterfowl Survey

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    Waterfowl Update:  a ground survey was conducted October 16, and 4872 ducks and geese were observed in the refuge sanctuary between 9am - 1:30pm, with another 300 ducks counted on the South Nutgrass unit in the hunt area from 2:30pm - 3:30pm (PST). 


    Click on this link to see the results of the October 20, 2014 aerial survey of the Lahontan Valley Wetlands, conducted by the Nevada Waterfowl Assoc.  There are no more scheduled overflights for this season. Results are also posted on their website at:

    Learn More
  • General Refuge Hunting Information


    Hunting is one of the more popular wildlife-dependent recreation activities available at Stillwater NWR.  From waterfowling to big game stalking, hunting opportunities are available from early Fall to Spring. Huinting at Stillwater NWR is only allowed north of Division Road, about 6mi north up Hunter Road after you enter the refuge.

    Migratory waterfowl (ducks, geese and Tundra Swans) are somewhat limited by habitat conditions such as available surface water, food, cover and weather. Resident wildlife species such as desert mule deer, rabbits, upland game birds and coyotes can be hunted as well. Hunting seasons are in conjunction with state of Nevada seasons and regulations for all big and upland game species and migratory birds.  


    Be aware of refuge-specific restrictions for non-toxic ammunition during the different hunt seasons.  No center-fire weapons (rifles, handguns) are allowed to be discharged within the refuge boundary; target shooting is strictly prohibited.  Waterfowl, upland and big game hunting is only allowed with non-toxic shot or slugs. Archery and muzzle-loader weapons are also permitted for certain seasons.


    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 programs can promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on lands and waters in the Refuge System.


    To find out more about hunting opportunities, seasons and regulations on Stillwater NWR, call 775/423-5128 ext. 228 or stop by our office at 1020 New River Parkway #305 in Fallon.

  • Wildlife Viewing

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    If you enjoy getting outdoors and looking for wildlife, consider a visit to your nearest national wildlife refuge!  From birding to whale watching, from viewing speedy pronghorn antelope or slow-moving box turtles, wildlife observation is the most popular activity for refuge visitors.

    From every state and all parts of the globe, about 40 million people visit each year, especially for the chance to see concentrations of wildlife and birds.  The National Wildlife Refuge System’s extensive trail system, boardwalks, observation decks, hunting and photography blinds, fishing piers and boat launches encourage visitors to discover America’s best wildlife spectacles.  For more information about wildlife observation opportunities at Stillwater NWR, contact Visitor Services Manager at 775/423-5128 ext. 228.

  • Interpretation

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

    In addition to staff and volunteers presenting programs to audiences, refuges use a variety of exhibits, signs, brochures, and electronic media to communicate natural history stories to visitors.  Printed and virtual information is often available on many topics, including plants and animals, seasonal migrations, habitats, refuge management strategies, and endangered species.

    Through Refuge System interpretation programs, you can learn about the ancient People of the Stillwater Marsh, the 'Elegant Pigs' - Tundra Swans, the disappearing Carson River, Farming for Wildlife in the marsh, and much more!

  • Environmental Education

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    National Wildlife Refuges serve many purposes, and one of our most important roles is as outdoor classrooms to teach about wildlife and natural resources.  Many refuges offer environmental education programs for a variety of audiences.  Refuges provide unique and exciting outdoor environments – excellent locations for hands-on learning activities.  Thousands of youth and adult groups visit every year to learn about a specific topic on wildlife, habitat, or ecological processes.

    Is your school, youth, environmental or other group interested in learning more about the wildlife, plants, habitats and ecology of a particular national wildlife refuge?  Contact or visit Stillwater NWR to check on program availability and reservation policies.  Refuges are wild places, and we want to teach you more about them!

  • Photography


    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography.  That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate.  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.  Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, and tour routes.  Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System.  We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card or internal hard drive! 


    Stillwater NWR has two observation/photo blinds available for public use at no charge. They are located along the public access roads in the refuge sanctuary: one is at Tule Trail, about 1/4mi north up Hunter Rd., just after you enter the refuge.  The blind is about 1/2 down the walk trail - if the flag is raised on the outside, it means the blind is occupied and to proceed carefully so as not to disturb the wildlife or user.

    The second photo blind is on the Foxtail Lake auto tour route, just West of the covered pavilion; you will see a pullout on the left with a sign for Photo Blind Parking. A short 200yd walk path leads to the blind on the edge of Foxtail Lake.  Again, if the flag is raised, the blind is occupied and you should wait until it is vacated before walking closer so as not to disturb their experience.

    A telephoto lens at least 300mm is almost a requirement on this refuge because the distances are so great with flat terrain and very little relief in topography. Early morning and evening hours are the best as the heat waves distort distant objects as the sun rises and temperatures warm.

Page Photo Credits — Credit: USFWS
Last Updated: Oct 21, 2014
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