Visitor Activities

  • Hunting

    Man and boy wearing hunting orange - USFWS.

    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 does not pose a threat to wildlife populations, and in some instances is necessary for sound wildlife management. Hunting programs can promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on lands and waters in the Refuge System.   

    Management of the hunt program is outlined in the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex's Hunt Plan. This document outlines how the refuges will provide safe, quality hunting opportunities while minimizing conflicts with other priority wildlife-dependent recreational uses. When found to be compatible at a refuge, the USFWS considers hunting to be one of the six priority wildlife-dependent recreational uses (the other 5 priority uses include fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and interpretation).   

    Visit to purchase permits.  

  • Fishing

    Adult and child fishing on the refuge - USFWS.

    Fishing is allowed from boats on the Sudbury and Concord Rivers or from riverbanks in accordance with state regulations. No fishing from any refuge pond or the impoundments in Concord is allowed. All refuges, hatcheries and other Fish and Wildlife Service lands follow state and federal regulations. 

  • Wildlife Observation

    Looking through binoculars - USFWS.

    Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is a popular destination for birders and others who enjoy observing wildlife. Accessible trails at both the Concord and Sudbury units of the refuge provide visitors with a unique window through which to view and experience the natural world. The 2.5 mile trail system in Concord on Monsen Road provides the best wildlife viewing on the refuge. This site has a wildlife observation tower, a wildlife observation platform, and direct access to the Concord River. 

    Tips for seeing wildlife: 


    • Take your time. The people who see the most take time to stop and look, are alert, and are quiet. 
    • Listen. One of the best ways to find an animal is to hear it first. Many animals are camouflaged very well and it takes a while to see them. If you hear their call you can get an approximate location, then look. 
    • Watch for movement. Because they are so well camouflaged, sometimes the best way to see an animal is to watch for movement. Whether it is a tree rustling when there is no breeze, a flicker of movement out of the corner of your eye, or some other signal, many times movement will betray a hidden animal. 
    • Look for signs of animals. Search for tracks, missing bark on trees, burrows, scat, and other signs animals have been in the area. 
    • Look in edge habitats, and remember to stay on the trails! These are areas between different types of habitats, for example where the plants meet the water, treetops, or where the forest and meadow meet. These areas are wonderful places for wildlife. 
    • Do not disturb a wild animal! Wild animals are unpredictable and will defend themselves if they feel threatened.


    Bird brochure (pdf)

  • Interpretation

    School group on the refuge - USFWS.

    The overarching goal of our wildlife-dependent recreation policy is to enhance opportunities and access to quality visitor experiences on refuges and to manage the refuge to conserve fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats.  

    As one of the six wildlife-dependent recreational uses of the Refuge System, interpretation provides opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to nature. 

     Sudbury Unit Trail Brochure (pdf)

     Concord Unit Trail brochure (pdf)

  • Environmental Education

    School group on the refuge - USFWS.

    Refuge staff and volunteers provide a limited number of environmental learning experiences for schools and other groups throughout the year depending on staff availability. Occasionally scheduled workshops support the professional development needs of area teachers. If you are interested in these types of opportunities, please write or call the refuge at 978-443-4661.

  • Photography

    Photographer on the refuge - USFWS.

    Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is a popular destination for birders and others who enjoy photographing wildlife. The habitats and wildlife are dependent on seasonal changes. Each season brings a unique change to the landscape and what wildlife you’re able to see. Throughout most of the year at Concord visitors are likely to see Great Blue Herons hunting for fish and muskrats swimming or eating vegetation. At the beginning of spring a diversity of migratory birds and hawks can be seen from the wildlife observation tower. Red-winged Blackbirds are a common sight on the trails at the start of spring.

    Launching, landing, or operating an aircraft to include unmanned aircraft (drone)from or on lands and waters administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service is prohibited, 50 CFR 27.34