Sand Lake NWR Wildlife Observation Areas


Sand Lake NWR offers a variety of seasonal and year-round accessible wildlife observation opportunities. Check out our Visit pages on this website, or contact the refuge office for more information.

"Wildlife Drive" Auto Tour Route

"Wildlife Drive" is a 15-mile auto tour route that travels through the heart of the refuge, offering excellent wildlife and habitat viewing. A specialized brochure will guide you through 12 stops along the route to help you better understand refuge management and the habitat and wildlife you are seeing. Wildlife Drive is open from April 1 through mid-October and may close periodically during this time due to weather conditions. 

Observation Tower

Constructed in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the 108-foot tower at refuge headquarters will give you a birds-eye view of the area. From the top, you can see distinctive habitats, the James River Valley, and refuge management areas.  

Columbia Day Use Area

One mile south of refuge headquarters on Brown County 16, the Columbia Day Use Area has hiking trails, interpretive kiosks, accessible restrooms, tables, sun shelter, and an excellent view of Sand Lake. It is a great location to take a hike or do some bird watching.  

Sand Lake Overlook

A new addition to Sand Lake, Sand Lake Overlook, combined with the Columbia Day Use Area, provides an excellent vantage for those wishing to experience the spring and fall migrations. Located along Brown County 16, and south of the Columbia day use area, this observation point places you up close in tantalizing your visual and audio senses. Parking Available. 

Hecla Day Use Area

Located on the northern end of the refuge roughly 5 miles west of Hecla on Brown County 5, the Hecla Day Use Area is an undeveloped but favorite spot among anglers and also offers good birding opportunities. 

Lux Memorial Wildlife Observation Area

Dedicated to the memory of Kelly Lux, this wildlife viewing site is located on the east side of the lake (along the Wildlife Drive Auto Tour Route, between stops 10 and 11) and offers excellent views of Sand Lake as well as great opportunities for bird watching. Bring your binoculars and have a picnic lunch at this lakeside spot!