Visitor Activities

  • Hunting

    accessible deer hunt

    For management purposes, the lands within the Refuge have been divided into an open area and a restricted area. The restricted area contains 21,000 acres and is only open to public hunting by special permit. The open area contains 23,000 acres where public hunting is permitted in accordance with state hunting seasons.

    Hunting for big game, upland game, furbearers, waterfowl and migratory birds is permitted. Special hunts are offered for youth, disabled and senior hunters. Contact the visitor center for more information on how to apply for special hunting permits; 618-997-3344 ext 1. To ensure your safety and enjoyment while hunting on the Refuge, please take the time to become familiar with the Refuge specific regulations.


    ALL hunters are required to carry a signed Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge General Hunt Permit verifying that they have read and understand the refuge hunting regulations. To download or print the refuge hunting regulations and general hunt permit click here

    Learn more about refuge regulations....

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  • Fishing

    fishing success

    Fishing is a popular visitor pastime on the Refuge. More than 9,000 acres of water are impounded by three man-made reservoirs and several small ponds. The larger lakes, Crab Orchard, Little Grassy and Devils Kitchen, are available for fishing from a boat on a year-round basis.

    There are also several areas developed for bank fishing with accessible fishing piers, walkways and fish attractors. Anglers enjoy fishing for largemouth bass, crappie and channel catfish to name just a few of the available species. Sport fishing is permitted throughout the Refuge in accordance with all applicable state regulations. To ensure your safety and enjoyment while fishing on the Refuge, please take the time to become familiar with the Refuge specific regulations. Organized fishing contests require a special use permit. Contact the visitor center for instructions on how to apply; 618-997-3344 ext 1.

    Check our fish consumption advisory

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  • Wildlife Viewing

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    The Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge's 44,000 acres of land and water contain a wide variety of flora and fauna. The Refuge serves as a winter feeding and resting area for waterfowl. Visitors viewing geese may see bald eagles overlooking the large flocks of waterfowl. White-tailed deer and wild turkey are common year round and can be seen in many areas of the Refuge. A wide variety of songbirds, waterfowl and raptors may be enjoyed by birders. Points of interest, trails, auto tours, and viewing blinds have been developed in order to encourage and enhance wildlife viewing.

  • Interpretation

    Interpretation Sam Spiller CONWR Volunteer - resize

    The Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge offers interpretive programs for organized groups and the general public. These programs are designed to increase visitor awareness, understanding, and appreciation of fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats. Some of our interpretive programs include a wildflower tour along the Rocky Bluff Trail in the spring and bald eagle tours in January. In the summer time, campfire talks are offered at the Carb Orchard Campground. The Refuge's visitor center also offers an introductory video and interpretive exhibits for daily viewing.

  • Environmental Education

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    The Refuge is home to the Pigeon Creek Environmental Education Complex and offers a wide variety of opportunities to educators. Environmental education programs have been developed to target specific age groups and seasonal wildlife viewing opportunities. The content of all school programs is coordinated with the Illinois State learning standards. All student programs are offered free of charge. Grants for transportation reimbursement are offered through the Friends of Crab Orchard.
    Also available to teachers are a variety of Discovery Trunks available for check out. Please contact the Environmental Education Coordinator at 618-997-3344 ext 1 to schedule your field trip or for more information about resources for teachers.

  • Photography


    Visitors can enjoy photography opportunities along the Refuge’s 9-mile auto tour. The auto tour route begins near the visitor center and highlights wetlands, grasslands and woodlands and the wide variety of wildlife found in these areas. Early morning or evening is best for viewing wildlife. Observation blinds are provided at three points along the tour route; overlooking the Visitors Pond, the Pigeon Creek moist soil unit and the Heron Flats wetlands. Blinds are available on a first come first served basis. Please see the Refuge wildlife list for information on wildlife species found on the Refuge.

  • Camping

    devils kitchen campground

    There are four campgrounds on the Refuge. 

    Little Grassy Lake and Blue Heron Campgrounds are operated through concession contracts. The Crab Orchard Recreation Association operates the Blue Heron Campground and Marina (formerly known as the Crab Orchard Boat & Yacht Club). The Blue Heron Campground is operated as a public campground. The Little Grassy Lake Campground & Marina is operated by Land for Learning Inc., while Refuge personnel operate the Crab Orchard Lake Campground and the Devils Kitchen Lake Campground.

    Campers at the Crab Orchard Lake Campground will experience some facility enhancements. Refuge personnel are currently making improvements at the Crab Orchard Lake Campground utilizing recreation fee dollars. These improvements include upgrading electric service, adding water, new grills, enlarging campsites, and adding sewer to some of the sites. The campground will be open from April 1st until November 21. The camping fees for the Crab Orchard Lake Campground are:

    Camp Site Daily 
    Full Hook Up $25 
    Electric/Water $20   
    Non Electric $10

    The maximum camping period shall be limited to 14 consecutive days.
    All camping units, equipment, and personal property must be removed from the campground for 48 hours at the end of any 14 consecutive days.
    Campers may return after the 48 hour time period.

    Devils Kitchen Lake Campground Operation Dates for 2021 Camping Season
    July 1 - Deer Season

    Camp Site Daily
    Non Electric - $10.00 daily / tent camping 

    For more information about the campgrounds call the refuge visitor center at 618-997-3344 ext. 1, or call the campgrounds directly.
    Crab Orchard Campground 618-985-4983
    Little Grassy Campground and Marina 618-457-6655
    Devils Kitchen Campground 618-997-3344 ext. 1 
    Blue Heron Campground and Marina 618-985-2572

    Crab Orchard Lake Campground 2021 Camping Season Guidelines

    2021 Crab Orchard Lake Campground Map Updated

    Devils Kitchen Camping Guidelines for 2021 Season

    2021 Devils Kitchen Campground Map

  • Becoming an Outdoors Family Program


    Becoming an Outdoors Family Program (B.O.F.) is a series of different weekend courses and workshops that focus on teaching basic outdoor skills to you and your family to help you enjoy nature and encourage you to spend more time outdoors.

    The courses vary greatly and cover everything from outdoor cooking to kayaking and everything in between.  Our goal is to reconnect families to the outdoors, to our Refuge, and to each other.  Becoming an Outdoors Family Program provides you and your family with a safe and fun setting to learn new skills, improve skills you may already have, or pass important skills on to the next generation.  All are welcome and all programs are free unless otherwise stated.

    Each course will be taught by an expert instructor and will allow you and your family to learn the basics as well as gain hands on experience in an environment where questions are welcomed and fun is a given!

    Check the 2019 Calendar of Events for a list of courses and the dates they will be offered.  If you have any requests for a course, please let us know.  So find a course that inspires you to get outdoors and bring your family and join us!


  • Refuge Rendezvous - Discovering Nature at the Campground

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    Reconnect with nature as park rangers and volunteers provide interactive programs about Crab Orchard NWR. These family friendly activities will help you explore the world of wildlife, the history of the refuge, and outdoor skills to make your adventures more enjoyable. Join us at the Crab Orchard Lake Campground. Free to the public and camping is not required to attend.