Public Use Opening for 2021

April 16, 2021
Old Timbers Lake

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is following federal, state, and local public health authority guidance to implement a phased approach to increase public access to Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge has scheduled its public use season to begin on April 16, 2021. Click here for the schedule.  The refuge is typically open on Mondays and Fridays, as well as the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from mid-April to mid- November.    

Please note the following conditions will be applied to all visitors to access the refuge in 2021, updates will be listed here as they are changed: 

  • All refuge visitors must view the safety briefing once per calendar year and sign an acknowledgement of danger form.    
  • Safety briefings will be limited to 30 visitors at a time and chairs will be spaced for social distance. Safety briefings will be held in Building 125, the refuge office building 
  • After visitors view their annual safety briefing and obtain their annual or daily permit, the refuge check-in will occur at the refuge east gatehouse, the white trailer on the east perimeter road.  
  • We will also show safety briefings on  April 15th (8 a.m. - 4 p.m on the hour, every hour). Safety briefings will also be held every hour during public use days or hunt days; the office is open from 7:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on public use days and from 5:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. on turkey hunt days.
More information on these temporary changes will be described during the annual safety briefing. 

Big Oaks has excellent fishing at Old Timbers Lake and trails available for bird watchers and other wildlife enthusiasts in the public use area in the northeastern portion of the refuge. A daily pass to the refuge costs $3.00, an annual pass is $15.00 and hunt permits are $20.00. Holders of an interagency Access/Senior Pass would be charged a reduced rate. For information about how to obtain an Access/Senior Pass please call the refuge office.

The health and safety of our visitors, volunteers and employees remains our number one priority and the following facilities or areas remain closed until further notice: 

Public restrooms will be closed at the refuge office and in the Public Use Area  

 The refuge will manage public use in 2021 by asking visitors to follow current CDC safe practices by wearing a mask and by maintaining a safe distance between yourself and other groups; washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and most importantly, staying home if you feel sick. Staff are working to maintain clean, safe, and healthy facilities in accordance with federal, state and local guidance. 

Please continue to visit this site for updates. We will evaluate conditions in 2021; check here for the refuge's schedule.  We look forward to seeing you soon!