There are lots of fun, interesting, and educational things you can do on the refuge. Keep in mind, if an activity is not wildlife related and doesn’t help in the protection or understanding of wildlife or their habitat, there are probably refuge rules governing this activity. Please check with the refuge management before participating in an activity that could harm the environment or yourself. There are plenty of activities on Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge for you to enjoy. Be safe and have fun!
General Refuge Regulations
All activities are limited to day use only sunrise to sunset (except as noted under the hunting section).
The possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages is not allowed.
Motorized vehicles are allowed in existing parking areas only. Off-road vehicle use, including ATVs, is prohibited. The use of motorized boats is allowed at no wake speed on refuge waters within the levee system.
Sunrise February 1 through sunset October 15: All refuge land is open to public access in accordance with these refuge regulations. The nature trails are open throughout the year. The refuge is accessible by foot, bicycle and boat. Swimming is prohibited in refuge waters.
Sunrise October 16 through sunset January 31: Refuge is closed for waterfowl sanctuary, however foot access is allowed on the shoreline from headquarters to Eagle Bluff Access Area. The nature trails are open throughout the year.
Camping, overnight use of the refuge, fires and fireworks are not permitted.
Pets must be on a leash unless engaged in hunting.
Nut, berry and mushroom picking are allowed for personal use only.
Hunting waterfowl is allowed in accordance with Illinois
state and refuge hunting regulations in the Liverpool Lake Public Hunting Area
of the refuge. This area is accessible by boat from the Illinois River. Public
boat launching sites are located in Havana and Liverpool. Access for hunting
waterfowl is allowed one hour before sunrise until one-half
hour after sunset in the hunting area.
Portable blinds are allowed. All hunting aids
such as blinds and decoys must be removed at the end of each day's hunt.
Approved, non-toxic shot must be used while hunting waterfowl. All migratory bird hunting on the refuge closes in accordance with published State waterfowl seasons. Refuge hunting is not open for the conservation order light goose season.
Hunting is not permitted on the Cameron-Billsbach
Fishing opportunities are highly variable depending on
existing water levels and fish populations in the managed pools.
Bass: Minimum length 15". Limit 6 per
Sunrise February 1 through sunset October 15 -
Sport fishing is allowed from bank, boat or ice on all of Chautauqua refuge waters. Illinois
state and refuge regulations apply. A "no wake" regulation is in
effect for boats on refuge waters. Trotline and jug fishing is permitted;
however, all fishing equipment must be removed from the refuge daily by sunset.
The use of bows and crossbows for fishing is prohibited.
Sunrise October 16 through sunset January 31 -
Bank fishing is allowed between the north pool boat ramp and fishing trail at
Eagle Bluff Access Area, as well as the area between the North Water Control
Structure and Goofy Ridge. During the waterfowl hunting seasons, all waters
within the public hunting area are closed to fishing. Illinois state and refuge
Sunrise October 16 through June 30 - Melz
Slough Area closed to fishing as posted.
Cameron-Billsbach Unit: All waters of the unit
are open to sport fishing in accordance with Illinois regulations from February
1 to October 15.
Cameron-Billsbach Unit:Nut, berry and mushroom picking are allowed for personal use only.
Camping, overnight use of the unit, fires and fireworks are not allowed.
Pets must be on a leash.
Hunting is not permitted.
Fishing is permitted in accordance with Illinois regulations from February 1 to October 15.
Public Use Regulations Sheet
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Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge is federally managed as part of the Illinois River National Wildlife And Fish Refuges Complex.