COVID-19 Information


 

Being safe on our refuges and hatcheries

We are proud to provide opportunities for safe, enjoyable outdoor experiences at many of our national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries during the coronavirus pandemic.

If visiting one of our locations, please #RecreateResponsibly and follow guidance from the CDC and state and local public health authorities on social distancing, exercising good hygiene and avoiding overcrowding:

  • Plan your visit outside of peak hours
  • If a parking lot is full when you visit, please continue on to another trail
  • Park only in designated areas
  • Wear a mask when social distancing cannot be maintained
  • Keep your dog on a leash for the protection of your pet and other visitors
  • Please visit only if you are feeling healthy - we ask you to stay home if you're feeling sick
  • We discourage long-distance travel

Federal Mask Mandate

When entering or remaining on a national wildlife refuge, visitors over the age of two years, regardless of vaccination status, must wear masks in the locations listed below, except when actively eating or drinking. Masks must cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face. Masks with ventilation valves and face shields do not meet the mask requirement. Masks should not be worn by children younger than two years old, anyone who has trouble breathing and anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

Locations where masks are required:

  • All common areas and shared workspaces in buildings owned, rented or leased by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including, but not limited to, visitor centers, administrative offices and gift shops
  • The following outdoor areas when others are present and social distancing cannot be maintained:
    • Outdoor areas adjacent to visitor centers or administrative office entry areas
    • Parking lots or pull-off viewing areas when outside of an enclosed vehicle
    • Trailheads, trails, rest areas, fishing piers, boat ramps and close proximity hunting areas
     

We understand that the outdoors can relieve stress, but these guidelines must be followed for our public health and safety. For now, refuge visitor centers and other public facilities are closed and most scheduled events have been postponed. For more information visit our webpage, FWS Coronavirus Response.

 

Refuge lands remain open sunrise to sunset**

Hiking trails and the wildlife drive provide great ways to see the refuge on foot or from a bike or vehicle. Hiking trails are open to foot travel only.

Portable restrooms are available at the Rice River boat ramp, Mandy Lake, Twin Lakes and the Rice Lake overlook.

**The Wildlife Drive will be open only from sunrise to noon on October 7-10. The refuge's annual deer hunt for persons with disabilities is being held that Thursday through Saturday, and, in order to accommodate the special hunt, it is necessary to close the Wildlife Drive daily at noon to all other users.

Small game and deer archery hunters will still be restricted to those areas designated as open to public hunting. The only area not affected by the afternoon closures, and to remain open for hunting, are the access points along Highway 65 on the east edge of the refuge, as well as the access points off County Road 4 to the south. Hunters will still be restricted to those areas designated as open to public hunting.**

A great time of year to plan a visit is mid-October, considered the peak for waterfowl migration. During the third week of October 1994, there were more than one million ducks estimated at Rice Lake, a Minnesota state record! Nowhere else, or at any other time, has there ever been such a large concentration of waterfowl observed in the state...until October 2017. During the October 31 waterfowl survey in 2017, a similar number of waterfowl was once again observed on Rice Lake. Slightly more than 965,000 ducks, geese and swans were counted. (Note that the refuge is closed to all waterfowl hunting.)

Best viewing times for waterfowl and most wildlife is generally early morning or late evening. Waterfowl viewing is best done from the observation platform overlooking Rice Lake. This is a great time of year to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, including the fall colors!

In honor of National Wildlife Refuge week, the refuge will open the west gate for anyone wanting to enter or leave that way from Monday, October 11 through Sunday, October 17. We ask that everyone adhere to the normal open hours of sunrise to sunset and the one-way traffic signs.

 

Refuge Headquarters open on Mondays and Fridays 

Refuge Headquarters is open to the public from 8 am to 4 pm on Mondays and Fridays. Wearing a mask is required in this building, regardless of vaccination status. Due to a staff shortage, visitors may occasionally find the office closed for brief periods of time.

 

Questions? Please email ricelake@fws.gov or call 1-218-768-2402 ext 100.