About the Refuge

Adult bald eagle and juvenile in a nest - Bill Wallen.

Eighteen miles south of Washington D.C., on the banks of the Potomac River, lies a peninsula known as Mason Neck. Here, on February 1, 1969, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service created the first national wildlife refuge established specifically for the protection of our nation’s symbol, the bald eagle. Once on the brink of extinction, the bald eagle enjoys the safety of the refuge’s forests and shoreline for nesting and foraging along the upper portions of the Potomac River and its tributaries.

Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge is adjacent to a rapidly growing metropolitan area where habitat is constantly altered. The refuge provides wildlife a relatively remote area of upland forests and freshwater marshes extending into the Potomac River. Refuge habitats host over 211 bird species, more than 200 plant species, 31 mammal species, and 40 species of reptiles and amphibians. The refuge is home to Great Marsh, a 207 acre tidal freshwater marsh, and one of Virginia’s largest breeding great blue heron colonies. Common species observed include bald eagle, wood thrush, white-tailed deer, groundhog, and wood duck.

The refuge’s purposes are as follows:

  1. To conserve fish, wildlife, or plants which are listed as endangered or threatened species.
  2. Protection of natural resources and incidental fish and wildlife-orientated recreational development.
  3. Carrying out the national migratory bird management program.
  4. For use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds.


Download the refuge brochure (pdf)
Download the refuge tear sheet (pdf) 


Refuge Location
High Point Road
Lorton, VA 22079 

Refuge Headquarters Office
14050 Dawson Beach Rd.
Woodbridge, VA 22191