Visitor Activities

Refuge sign / © Todd Weston, USFWS

Refuge trails and auto tour road are OPEN all year from sunrise to sunset, free of charge!


Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, including seasonal hunting from September 1 to mid-February; for a variety of game birds, waterfowl, deer, feral hog, and rabbit.

Waterfowl Hunter with his dog near water's edge / USFWS

Hunting

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) expanded hunting and sport fishing opportunities on national wildlife refuges. Hunting and sport fishing opportunities are authorized and provided on FWS-managed lands in accordance with federal, state, and tribal (where applicable) regulations and seasons.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge sought Public Input on a proposal to expand hunting opportunities in its North Tract and South Tract units. This proposal is to better align with New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) regulations. The refuge proposes to participate in the NMDGF early, teal-specific season on the North Tract and to open hunting for white-tailed deer and mule deer on the South Tract through a special demographic only hunt. 

The Agency carried out a public review and comment period process on these proposed openings and expansions. The final documents are available at the following website: 

https://www.fws.gov/refuges/fishingguide/more-about-fishing-on-national-wildlife-refuges/ 

For questions on hunting or sport fishing opportunities, regulations, and access, please contact the refuge

The refuge offers seasonal Hunting for: waterfowl, sandhill crane, quail, dove, pheasant (for youth only), feral hog, rabbit, and deer during specific dates with set bag limits. The refuge's annual Hunt Season begins September 1 and runs through mid-February. 

The refuge also hosts an annual Youth Upland Game Workshop and Pheasant-Quail Hunt in early December, on a Saturday, beginning at 6:00 am. This hunting opportunity is for youth 17 years and younger. Sixteen youth are drawn to participate in this annual Upland Game Workshop and Pheasant-Quail Hunt. The selected draws are notified by late-November.

Wildlife Watching and Nature Trails - REFUGE PUBLIC LAND AREAS ARE OPEN FOR VISITOR ENJOYMENT EVERY DAY FROM ONE HOUR BEFORE SUNRISE TO ONE HOUR AFTER SUNSET. THE REFUGE AUTO TOUR ROAD IS OPEN DAILY. View the Refuge' visitor access Map for locations of the Trails listed below:

  
Four short trails and two longer hiking trails are available adjacent to the Refuge Headquarters and Wildlife Drive. 

•  Butterfly Trail – Near the Headquarters, this 1/4 mile trail provides interpretive information
   about butterflies and landscaping to attract these beautiful insects.  This is a perfect location
    to view native vegetation.

•  Wildlife Drive/Auto Tour Loop -- The eight-mile wildlife drive is one of the best ways to
   observe wildlife.  Take advantage of the overlooks to get great views of flocks of Lesser
   sandhill cranes and Ross’ and snow geese, or to spot the coyotes and red-tail hawks criss-
   crossing the wetlands Drive slowly and watch for basking spiny softshell turtles, coachwhip
   snakes and checkered whiptail lizards.  

•  Oxbow trail - About 4 miles from the Refuge headquarters office off the auto tour route, this
    trails used to be connected to the Pecos River.  The deep water channel is an
   excellent location for bird watching and is approximately two miles long. 

•  Desert Upland Trail - This 1 mile trail takes you through an area that hosts an assortment of
   native plant species.  Shrubs and thicket areas provide excellent quail and songbird
   viewing. 

•  Dragonfly Trail -- Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is famous for supporting one of the
   most diverse populations of dragonflies and damselflies in North America. Just less than
   one mile on the wildlife drive, you can enjoy dragonfly watching on this trail. 

•  The North Tract (12,160 acres) of the refuge, including the wilderness area, is open to
    hiking and horseback riding.   

Bicycling
Bike riding is permitted on the eight-mile gravel wildlife drive or the refuge's paved four mile (round trip) bike trail.

Please follow the Refuge' Rules and Regulations while on the public trails. These directives are for the safety of wildlife and you! 

Visitor Center - To slow the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure the health and safety of our employees, volunteers, and you--our friends and neighbors, we are temporarily suspending operations of the Visitor Center.

Visitor Center exterior view / © B. Madison, USFWSThe Refuge' Visitor Center is currently closed out of caution to ensure health and safety to our visitors. Refuge lands, including nature trails and outdoor recreational activities, remain open and accessible to the public.
Our Refuge informative Visitor Center has various exhibits and feature films to introduce you to the diverse wildlife species seen at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Refuge staff and volunteers answer your questions in the Visitor Center; and a Nature Store has many helpful field guides, books and information to help make your visit to the Refuge enjoyable. The Visitor Center hours are open predominantly Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The building is closed on Sundays and federal Holidays. Please call 575-625-4011 for any visitor assistance and inquiries.