Visitor Activities

Photo of USFWS Mascot, the Blue Goose, walking the trails at the Big Muddy Headquarters on the Overton Bottoms North Unit by Ashley Riedel/USFWS.

Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (NFWR) consists of seventeen separate units located mostly along the lower Missouri River. All the refuges units are open free of charge to the public. Check out the maps link to the right to locate a unit near you and find out what it offers!

  • Wildlife Observation/Hiking

    Photo of a visitor viewing wildlife at the Diana Scour on the Overton Bottoms North Unit of the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge by Anna Weyers/USFWS.

    The Missouri River provides what some call the conveyor belt of wildlife viewing, creating wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities throughout the Refuge year-round. Habitat provided by the river, along with habitat restoration by Refuge staff attracts numerous migratory bird species - from hummingbirds to hawks - at various times throughout the year. Beavers, bobcats, and other secretive wildlife can also be found on the Refuge, traveling along the river's shoreline, especially during dusk and dawn. Trails on the Refuge provide prime viewing opportunities for visitors, who can easily access remote locations where wildlife abound. Visit us today, to start your viewing adventure!

  • Fishing

    Photo of USFWS interns teaching a young boy how to fish at a Fee Free Fishing event.

    The Missouri River, tributary streams and scour lakes and ponds provide plenty of opportunities to fish on most units within the Refuge. While the Missouri River is great for catching cat fish, scour lakes and ponds created and replenished by Missouri River flooding provide excellent opportunities to catch crappie, bass, catfish, carp and other fish throughout the year. Some of our scour lakes and ponds are also located in more remote locations, providing some isolated fishing opportunities. Many trails are available on the Refuge as well, providing easy access to fishing locations along the river. To find out more about specific locations, feel free to connect with us via Facebook or give us a call! Fore more general information, check out our brochure, linked below.

     General Brochure


  • Hunting

    Photo of a father and son hunting on the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge by Carol Weston.

    The refuge includes a diverse array of habitats, from floodplain and upland forests, and occasional flooded wetlands, to agriculture and early succession fields. These areas support an abundance of deer, turkey, squirrels, rabbits and other game species. Refuge hunting seasons generally follow state regulations; however, it is important to note that specific units are archery hunting only or archery deer and shotgun only and there is no hunting allowed near the Headquarters building on the Overton Bottoms North Unit. Single projectile firearms are also not permitted on the Boone’s Crossing and Cora Island Units. Visit our Rules and Regulations page for additional information.

  • Interpretation

    Photo of Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Park Ranger, Tim Haller, giving an interpretive talk on turtles at a Missouri River Relief event.

    National Wildlife Refuges across the country provide opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to the natural world. Self-guided hikes and staff-led programs help visitors learn more about the wildlife and habitats behind the landscapes. The Refuge partners with schools, non-profits and Friends of Big Muddy to educate youth and adults about the Missouri River and refuge. Events focus on local festivals and special events to help spark a continued interest by visitors to their natural environment. Contact the refuge for more information about upcoming programs and events.

  • Environmental Education

    Photo of Big Muddy NFWR Park Ranger, Tim Haller, giving an environmental education talk to a group of visiting students on the Overton Bottoms North Unit by Ashley Riedel/USFWS.

    National wildlife refuges serve many purposes and one of our most important missions is to provide outdoor classrooms to teach about the natural environment. The Refuge's education program focuses on increasing understanding of the Missouri River, the wildlife habitat it creates, and the need for native habitat restoration. Opportunities include school field outings on the Refuge, mobile river exhibits, various events throughout the year as well as The Big Muddy Speakers Series. All activities are free, and include an opportunity for the public to learn about the river and the Refuge. Contact us to learn more about educational opportunities.

  • Photography

    Photo of a Student Conservation Association Career Discovery Intern taking photographs of wildlife on the Berger Bend Unit of the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge by Anna Weyers/USFWS.

    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges recently has been wildlife photography. The Big Muddy NFWR has a plethora of photography opportunities with plenty of wildlife year round. While some of the more desirable species may be camera shy, insects and spiders make for interesting subjects and can be found throughout the Refuge. During summer and fall, photographers are greeted with numerous and colorful butterflies; catch their photograph as they pause to pollinate plants! To capture some of the more elusive wildlife, take the wait and see approach. Just after sunrise and before sunset are the best times for viewing wildlife on the Refuge - you may be surprised at what you see.