Visitor Activities

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Wildlife orientated recreational activities abound on refuges.



  • Auto Tour Route

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    The Auto Tour Route is open to vehicles April 14 through December 31 depending on road conditions.

    Interpretive panels provide information on wildlife, habitats, management practices and historical uses of the area.

    Look for the woodpecker logo signs which indicate the stops on the tour route. The length of the route is about 11 miles, providing many wildlife viewing opportunities.


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  • Birding


    Two hundred six bird species have been recorded on the Refuge. Lakes and marshes, rivers, meadows and forested mountains provide varied habitats for birds. White-headed and black-backed woodpeckers entice many birders to the Refuge. In the Maps section is a Birding Hotspots map. We also have bird checklists available at Refuge headquarters.


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  • Camping


    Camping is allowed on a first come-first serve basis from April 14 through December 31. Established campgrounds have a vault toilet and metal fire rings.

    No drinking water is available. Do not leave campfires unattended. High fire danger will cause campfire restrictions. Information will be posted in all campgrounds and at the Headquarters kiosk.

    Dispersed hunting camp sites are open from October 1 through December 31. These are primitive campsites with no amenities. Campsites must be within 50 feet of a dispersed campsite carsonite marker. Bury all human waste in a hole 6 to 8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from water, camp or trails.

  • Fishing

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    Fishing is permitted in Potter's Pond, Bayley Lake, and McDowell Lake from 4th Saturday in April until October 31; in the Little Pend Oreille River, the Rookery Road beaver ponds and all other streams from the Saturday before Memorial Day through October 31. Bayley and McDowell Lakes are fly-fishing only and catch and release for part of the season. Potter's Pond is statewide minimum size/daily limit.  The Little Pend Oreille River is statewide minimum size/daily limit, with selective gear rules. The inlet to Bayley Lake is closed to fishing.

    Note: Fishing regulations on the refuge have changed this year (2018) in our lakes and streams. Please consult the statewide fishing regulations.

    Fishing Regulations

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  • Hiking


    The Refuge has 3 hiking trails. The Mill Butte Trail is a 4.5 mile loop that starts at Refuge Headquarters. The summit is 2,619 feet with a 360 degree view. The trail is rated moderately difficult.

    The McDowell Marsh Environmental Education Trail is a 1.2 mile loop that starts at River Camp. The first half of the trail is wheelchair accessible and has a boardwalk over a wetland. The accessible trail continues around the Marsh to McDowell Lake. At this point the trail narrows and gains elevation as it goes through a forested area. The trail is rated easy.

    The Beaver Pond Overlook Trail and the Big Pine Trail share a trail head on  Rookery Road. The Overlook Trail is a .25 mile spur that follows an old road grade to an interpretive viewpoint overlooking the Beaver Ponds. The Big Pine Trail is an easy .75 mile loop through a mixed species forest.

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  • ADA Access

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    We do have areas that are wheelchair accessible here. At Refuge Headquarters there is a 1/8 mile paved trail to an overlook of the Little Pend Oreille River. The McDowell Marsh Environmental Education Trail is a 1/2 mile crushed rock trail to McDowell Lake. There you will find a blind for wildlife observation and photography and a picnic table - both are wheelchair accessible. Potter's Pond has a 1/4 mile paved trail to the fishing dock. Our new Auto Tour Route has two accessible pullouts - at the Beaver Ponds and the McDowell Lake Overlook. The vault toilets at Headquarters and McDowell Overlook are easy to access in a wheelchair.

  • Hunting

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    The Refuge covers 41,568 acres, mostly in Game Management Unit 117, and supports a wide array of wildlife. White-tailed deer, wild turkey, and grouse are the species most commonly hunted. There are safety zones one-quarter mile around Refuge Headquarters and buildings, established campgrounds and trails where no shooting is allowing. Target shooting is not permitted. Spring and fall turkey hunting is allowed in accordance with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations. Turkeys are the only species open for hunting during the spring season; no spring bear hunting is allowed. Hunting seasons for all other species are from September 1 through December 31. There are numerous in holdings (privately owned land) within the Refuge boundary, It is the hunter's responsibility to know their location. Waterfowl hunting is allowed on all our lakes and ponds, but all streams are closed to waterfowl hunting. Trapping is not permitted. Some folks ask why we allow hunting... well here is the answer.

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  • Photography

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    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on National Wildlife Refuges is wildlife photography. A photo blind for public use is located near McDowell Marsh; access is from the McDowell Marsh Environmental Education Trail at River Camp. Your vehicle also serves as an excellent photo blind.  Some wildlife may behave aggressively if they feel threatened; maintain a safe distance and minimize disturbance.

    If you get some great photos and don't mind sharing them, email them to us and if we can use them on our website we will be sure you credit you.

  • Check out a day pack

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    You can borow a day pack, binoculars and bird guide for your visit for free. Just come to Refuge Headquarters during office hours.