Plan Your Visit

boardwalk 512x219

The Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge provides numerous recreation opportunities to its visitors every season of the year. People enjoy viewing the variety of habitats and diverse wildlife; whether paddling, driving, or walking.

  • All outdoor areas of the Refuge are open sunrise to sunset.
  • Areas behind the locked yellow gates are closed to driving but open to foot and bike traffic.
  • If folks have questions, please text or call me, Andrew, at 703.622.3896.  Signal and availability dependent.


Regulation of recreation activities allows for public enjoyment of the Refuge while still protecting the wildlife and habitats. You may want to visit these Places of Interest. This map will help you find your way.

The Refuge is open from sunrise to sunset. Visitors access the Refuge via the Nature Drive in Levy County and the Dixie Mainline and County Road 357 in Dixie County. Roads throughout the refuge are lime rock; visitors must maintain the posted speed limit. No camping or overnight parking is allowed within the Refuge; although, there are County campgrounds adjacent to the refuge on both sides of the Suwannee River.

Hiking is allowed in all areas open to the public. Wildlife observation and photography are encouraged. Bicycling is allowed on designated public access routes and behind locked gates. Horseback riding is not permitted, but is allowed in the adjacent Cedar Key Scrub State Park.

Fishing is allowed per state regulations. Dock and bank fishing are permitted at Shell Mound and Shired Island.

Hunting is permitted on the refuge in accordance with all state and federal regulations. Hunters shall consult the Florida state hunting regulations and obtain a FREE Refuge Hunt Permit/Brochure in order to hunt here. Firearms and other weapons are subject to state law. At all times, persons possessing, transporting, or carrying firearms on the refuge must comply with all provisions of state law. Firearms may only be discharged in accordance with refuge hunting regulations, i.e., only during the lawful pursuit of game during legal seasons. 

Other prohibitions are dogs off-leash; off-road vehicles; and collecting of plants, animals, minerals, antlers and artifacts.

Lodging is available in the surrounding area. Listings are available through the Chiefland, Cedar Key, and Suwannee Chambers of Commerce. Food, gas and supplies are available year-round in the surrounding area.

Directions to Refuge Headquarters:
From US 19 in Chiefland, FL, turn south onto CR 345, drive for approximately 6 miles, turn right onto County Road 347, follow that road until it junctions with CR 330. Turn left at the junction and drive 6 miles to the big brown information signs, follow signs. You can also Google:  Vista, Levy County, Florida. The street address is: 16450 NW 31 Pl, Chiefland, FL 32626, Phone: 352/493-0238. The Administration Office has a Visitor Contact Station that provides maps, brochures, information and a warm welcome for visitors. Restroom facilities, a pollinator garden, and paddling information are also available. 

Levy County:  Just 100 yards from headquarters, sits the huge bat house built for 100,000 Brazilian free-tail bats. Just beyond it is a nature trail and boardwalk that takes you to the historic Suwannee River. One half mile to the south, the 9-mile Nature Drive winds through several habitats and by an observation deck where a variety of birds and baby gators can be seen. Ten miles south, Shell Mound offers a fishing pier, kayak launch, and an interpretive trail across a 6,000 year old archaeological site. The interpreted Dennis Creek Trail features wayside signs, foot bridges across a salt barren, and an observation deck for bird lovers. Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge can be viewed and visited from the quaint village of Cedar Key only ten minutes away. 

Dixie County:  The Dixie Mainline is a refurbished logging-tram road. Its 9-miles takes visitors from one spectacular view to another. From the south, near Suwannee town, catch the Dixie Mainline to see Salt Creek observation deck, the beautiful and mysterious swamp, Sanders and Johnson Creeks. Upon reaching County Road 357, turn left to check out the topography of Fishbone Creek, then go to beautiful Shired Island boat ramp and take the trail to the beach covered with driftwood. don't forget your camera and fishing pole.

Winter visitors will enjoy the mild weather, but sunscreen is suggested. Summer requires lots of water, bug repellent and sunscreen – maybe even a hat and sunglasses. Cell phone reception is spotty in the backcountry; most of the area is backcountry and Verizon seems to work best.