Visitor Activities

Headquarters Building

Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the Refuge activities noted below.  Any activities not mentioned below are prohibited due to their incompatibility with the wildlife conservation mission and goals of the Refuge.


  • Wildlife Viewing and Photography


    From birding to viewing speedy pronghorn, 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.

    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.   

    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.

    At Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge a 6-mile self-guided auto tour route takes you through a variety of Refuge habitats, providing excellent opportunities to view and photograph waterfowl, other water birds, pronghorn, white-tailed prairie dogs and coyotes.  The ADA compliant 1/2-mile interpretive Moose-Goose Nature Trail, which winds along the Illinois River, provides a great chance to view song birds, and other riparian residents such as moose, American beaver and northern river otter. You can hike, bicycle. or horseback ride on any Refuge road open to public vehicular traffic, but please do so with caution.  It is a good idea to wear hunter orange or brightly colored clothes during hunting seasons!  The Refuge has three overlooks to facilitate viewing wildlife and habitats at a distance. These can be a good spot to view our resident herd of elk. There is also an ADA compliant hunting/photography blind which can be used for viewing wildlife at the Fox Pond.

  • Hunting


    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 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 a 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. 

    Hunting on Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge is permitted in designated hunting areas according to Federal and State regulations and Refuge specific regulations. In 2012 a Limited Draw elk hunt was established with selection preference being given to youth and disabled hunters. For more information about licensing or the draw for this special hunt call Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Steamboat Springs, Colorado at 970-870-2197. There is an ADA compliant hunting/photography blind located at the Fox Pond.   

    Persons possessing, transporting, or carrying firearms on National Wildlife Refuge System Lands must comply with all provisions of State and local law.  Persons may only use (discharge) firearms in accordance with refuge regulations (50 CFR 27.42 and specific refuge regulations in 50 CFR Part 32).

    To find out more about hunting opportunities at Arapaho, please visit our Hunting section under Rules and Regulations and read our Hunting and Fishing brochure available at any refuge information kiosk.

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  • Fishing

    Fishing on the Refuge

    In addition to the conservation of wildlife and habitat, the Refuge System offers a wide variety of quality fishing opportunities.  Fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the Refuge System.  Every year, about 7 million anglers visit national wildlife refuges.

    Quality fishing opportunities are available on more than 270 national wildlife refuges and  visitors can experience virtually every type of sport fishing on the continent.  

    Fishing is permitted at Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, except from June 1st through July 31st, during the elk hunt seasons for areas open to elk hunting and when the river is frozen.  Fishing is allowed only along the Illinois River south of Jackson County Road 32. The portion of the Illinois River located on the Refuge is not stocked and has dense willow growth along much of its bank. River access is best near the Moose-Goose Nature Trail.  The common species is brown trout in small numbers. During hunting seasons it is a good idea to wear hunter orange or brightly colored clothing while fishing on the Refuge.

     To find out more about fishing opportunities at Arapaho, please visit our Fishing section under Rules and Regulations and read our Hunting and Fishing brochure available at any information kiosk.

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  • Interpretation


    Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge offers a true learning experience. The Visitor Center, located at the Refuge's Headquarters, has interpretive displays and helpful staff to answer questions. Refuge, informational, and area attraction brochures, our wildlife checklist and educational materials for kids are also available. In addition, wayside exhibits are located throughout the Refuge along the auto tour route, the Moose-Goose Nature Trail and at the Brocker overlook.