Visitor Activities

Visitor Activities

The refuge grounds are open daily sunrise to sunset; the visitor center is open under temporary adjusted hours of Tuesday through Saturday (except for certain federal holidays) 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. The Bertrand steamboat museum collection is on display inside the visitor center. Scroll down for information on visitor activities at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge.

  • Hunting


    Hunting opportunities at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge are available on a regulated basis. Deer and wild turkey hunts are available yearly. All hunting occurs at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge within the state seasons, follows the regulations of the state and special DeSoto NWR regulations. 

    For information about hunting opportunities at Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge, please follow this link:

    In addition to state and refuge hunting permits, all hunters are required to possess a valid entrance pass

    2021-2022 - DeSoto Refuge Hunting Regulations and Permit  

    2021-2022 Fall/Winter Deer Hunts

    Deer (Muzzleloader - Antlerless Only)- December 4-5, 2021

    Deer (Muzzleloader - Antlerless Only)- January 8-9, 2022

    Deer (Archery - Either Sex) - October 1, 2021 - January 10, 2022

    Nebraska Hunters need a statewide muzzleloader (Dec. hunt only) or Wahoo AOSC (Dec. or Jan. Hunt) permit and may only harvest antlerless deer.  Hunters also need to print and sign the 2021-2022 DeSoto Hunting Regulations and Permit brochure (available starting in September of each year)  Have these permits printed and signed to participate in the weekend hunts.  Contact refuge for more information: 712-388-4803

    Iowa Hunters must apply via mail (DeSoto NWR, Attn: Antlerless Hunts, 1434 316th Lane, Missouri Valley, IA 51555) or email ( directly to the refuge.  When applying through mail or email
    , include muzzleloader hunt weekend you wish to participate in along with name, address and phone number.  A letter will then be sent out with instructions on how to obtain the special antlerless deer permit.

    2021 Turkey Hunts

    Turkey (Spring Archery) - April 15 - May 16, 2021

    Turkey (Fall Archery) - Oct. 1 - Dec. 3 & Dec. 20 - Jan. 10

    Youth Turkey Hunt (Shotgun) - April 10-11, 2021 - Limited openings and must apply for hunt; call 712-388-4800 for more information

    Mobility Impaired Turkey Hunt (Shotgun) - April 17-18, 2021 - Limited openings and must be mobility impaired; call 712-388-4800 for more information 


  • Fishing

    Fishing at DeSoto Lake

    Fishing opportunities at DeSoto Lake are available from April 15-October 14. Ice fishing is open January 2- February 28/29. DeSoto Lake has a good fishery for crappie, walleye, catfish, largemouth bass, white bass, and bluegill. A number of access points allow for bank fishing, and a boat launch facility is available during the season (April 15 - Oct 14). Fish habitat structures, including tree piles, rock piles, and pallets have been placed in the lake to enhance the fishery. To protect the fragile lake shore from erosion due to wave action there is a no-wake policy in effect. For more information about fishing, please see our DeSoto Regulations Brochure, DeSoto Lake Fish Habitat Structure Map or the DeSoto Lake Depth Map.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    Wildlife observation at DeSoto Nationla Wildlife Refuge

    DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. A wide variety of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, grassland birds, neotropical migrants, mammals and many others can be seen at the refuge. Look for wildlife from the DeSoto Visitor Center, from refuge roads and while hiking refuge trails. You will find the largest concentrations of migrating birds in the spring and fall.

  • Interpretation

    Interpretive program at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge

    Explore DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge through interpretive exhibits, brochures and programs. Start at the DeSoto Visitor Center for an overview of the natural and cultural history of the area. Look for kiosks and signs throughout the area. Join us for interpretive programs and special events throughout the year. 

  • Environmental Education

    Environmental education program at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge

    DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge provides many opportunities for learning. Through environmental education programs, students meet curriculum goals while connecting with nature.

    DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge partners with the Blair Community School District (NE) and students make repeat visits to the refuge each year. They explore the refuge through the seasons and learn more about the wildlife in their own backyard. 

    The refuge also partners with Edison Elementary in Omaha for a yearlong Refuge experience for 6th grade students. This partnership includes school visits by rangers and field trips to the refuge. 

    Other schools are also served for single visit field trips to the refuge that are facilitated with activity guides and other assistance from refuge staff.

    For more information, see the 
    Educator Information Guide and the Blair Schools/DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge Environmental Education Partnership mission document. 

  • Photography

    Wildlife photography at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge

    DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is full of photographic opportunities. Photographers have ample opportunities to photograph migratory waterfowl, bald eagles, scenic vistas and other resident wildlife. There are no special photography blinds on the refuge but photographers can shoot from any location open to the general public.

    The refuge will be hosting a photo contest this year with the deadline for entry September 2nd.  To learn more about the contest and for entry forms, click the link below:

    DeSoto Photo Contest  

    You do not need a permit for commercial still photography in areas or during times that are already open to the public, unless you are using a model, set, or prop.  Photographers cannot use portraits taken on the refuge to promote or sell their services.

    We require a permit for still photography if it:

    • takes places in areas closed to the public or when the refuge is normally closed.
    • we would incur costs for providing on-site management and oversight to protect agency resources or minimize visitor conflicts.
    All commercial filming requires a permit.