Visitor Activities

Visitor Act
  • Fishing

    Young girl holding a fish - USFWS.

    Recreational fishing is a priority use of the National Wildlife Refuge System and there are many locations to fish throughout John Heinz refuge. Visit our fishing page to learn more about the best areas to fish on the refuge and the fishing rules and regulations.

    Fishing on the refuge

  • Kayaking and Canoeing


    Kayaking and Canoeing is one of the most popular activities at John Heinz refuge. Paddle the 4.5 mile segment of Darby Creek to wind through the largest freshwater marsh in Pennsylvania. Visit our Canoeing page to learn more about paddling on the refuge.

     Kayaking and Canoeing at Heinz Refuge  

  • Wildlife Viewing

    Visitors looking through binoculars - Colleen McCubbin Stepanic.

    With over 10 miles of trails and several wildlife observation platforms, the refuge provides many areas for visitors to observe wildlife. The refuge contains a variety of ecosystems unique within Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia metropolitan area including tidal and nontidal freshwater marsh, freshwater tidal creek, open impoundment waters, coastal plain and riparian forests, and early successional grasslands. The diverse habitats support a variety of resident and migratory wildlife including more than 300 species of birds recorded since 1950, as well as many mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and plants.

    Visit our Birds page to learn more about Birding and Recent Sightings here at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum.


  • Interpretation

    Children helping plant pollinator garden - Chuck Lafferty/USFWS.

    The refuge offers numerous opportunities for environmental interpretation by maintaining 10 miles of hiking trails, interpretive signs, displays, and kiosks, as well as sponsoring several public events focused on fish, wildlife, habitat, and their conservation. The majority of refuge visitors participate in self-guided interpretive or wildlife-oriented recreation, outside of planned programs and events.

    Most refuge visitors access the refuge on foot for purposes of wildlife viewing, photography, fishing, environmental education programs, or exercise. Additional, but restricted, access is allowed for bicyclists.

    Please check our events calendar for a list of upcoming events.

  • Environmental Education

    Environmental education on the refuge - USFWS.

    Since its establishment in 1972, the refuge has worked with area educators to provide educational opportunities for their students. Our programs provide teachers with the information, skills, and resources to incorporate the environment into their curriculum and to utilize the refuge as an outdoor classroom as well as engage students in hands-on activities that inspire and connect them directly to nature. "Connecting People to Nature" is a national program and priority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Visit our For Educators page to learn more about environmental education on the refuge.

  • Photography

    Photographers on the refuge - Frank Doyle.

    Wildlife activity abounds at John Heinz NWR in Philadelphia, the nation's most urban refuge, where myriad birds, bugs, mammals, turtles and snakes make their home. There is much to discover, study and photograph.

    The Friends of Heinz Refuge Photo Group regularly offers programs and workshops to visitors of all ages. They sponsor the annual refuge photo contest each fall. The Photo Group meets quarterly on the 3rd Sunday of January, April, July, and October, at 10am, in the Refuge Visitor Center.

  • Hunting

    The refuge is not open to hunting for this Fall 2018 hunt season.  However, the refuge will open its first archery-only hunt program in Fall 2019 for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), aimed primarily for youth and other special groups. As specified in the hunt plan, the hunt will accommodate the following Pennsylvania Game Commission defined and licensed groups: Mentored Youth; Junior Hunter; Resident Military Personnel; Resident National Guard/Reserves; Resident Prisoners of War; Disabled War Veterans; and Hunters with Disabilities. Hunting would be allowed in designated areas on the refuge, in accordance with Federal and State regulations. Approximately 170 acres would be open to white-tailed deer hunting. The documents to support this decision are being finalized with implementation to occur in Fall 2019. Additionally, the refuge supports hunting activities through sponsoring hunter education courses, managing the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Program, and making informational materials available from our state partners.