About the Refuge


Congress established the Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge on December 30, 1960, by the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929. The Service established the original acquisition boundary of 7,835 acres in 1961 and expanded the boundary to 9,503 acres in 1991. The Secretary of the Interior issued a proclamation on August 21, 1963, prohibiting waterfowl hunting on 4,621 acres of the refuge and 1,098 acres of water south and west of the refuge.

The Fish and Wildlife Service administers Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge located on Knotts Island along the North Landing River. The refuge staff administers 8,219 acres of fee title land in Currituck County, North Carolina, and Virginia Beach, Virginia, and 4,383 acres of the fee title land and 3,931 acres of conservation easement land at the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge on the Outer Banks of Currituck County, North Carolina. The marshes on the western edge of Currituck National Wildlife Refuge are located 6 miles east of the Mackay Island Refuge headquarters across the Currituck Sound. The western marshes are ½-mile east of the boat ramp on Knotts Island Bay; the upland portion of the refuge is 2 miles east of the boat ramp. It is 100 miles and almost a 3-hour drive to the Currituck Refuge around the Sound by roads.

The first recorded history of Mackay Island began in 1761 when John Jones bought the island, which at that time was called Orphan's Island. John Mackie purchased it around 1768 and over the years the name was somehow changed to Mackay Island. Other previous owners include Thomas Dixon, author of "The Klansmen" and "Birth of a Nation" and Joseph P. Knapp, founder of "More Game Birds In America" which is now known as "Ducks Unlimited". He built a private resort and experimented with various wildlife management techniques, some of which are still used today. After Knapps' death, Mackay Island passed through several owners until the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recognized the value of the area as a refuge and acquired it in 1961.