Visitor Activities

  • Wildlife Viewing

    wildlife viewing winter

    Bird watching is a popular wildlife viewing activity.  Annual migrations funnel hundreds of thousands of waterfowl, songbirds and raptors through the Minnesota River Valley. The refuge has a wide diversity of wildlife and plants, and provides many opportunities to view wildlife both on land and in the water.

    Other activities you can do on the refuge that will allow you to view wildlife include biking, hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

    Bird Checklist
    Damselfy and Dragonfly Checklist
    Wildlife Checklist 


  • Birding

    Song Sparrow by Sara Giles

    The refuge's 14,000 acres include prairies, woodlands, marshes, forests, savannas, and lakes that attract many types of shorebirds, waterfowl, and songbirds to the refuge as a stopover on their migration route between their breeding grounds further north and their wintering areas in the south. Annually over 200 species of birds can be found at the refuge, with over 100 species nesting here. Visit the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge's birding webpage for a list by unit of the birds that have been seen over the past 30 days.

  • Hiking

    Overlook view 150x118

    Minnesota Valley NWR has more than 30 miles of hiking trails along the Minnesota River. Refuge trails are open sunrise to sunset 365 days a year. Maps are available at both refuge visitor centers, at trailhead kiosks or download them on the maps page. Refuge trails are subject to spring and fall flooding. Please check the refuge website regularly for trail condition updates. Dogs on leash are welcome to enjoy the trails with their owners. If you are new to hiking or just prefer to explore with a group, check out our Events Calendar for a variety of programs and events that may include guided trail walks throughout the year.

  • Hunting


    Select units offer specific hunting opportunities during Minnesota state seasons, including opportunities for youth and people with disabilities.  All Minnesota state regulations and Refuge-specific regulations pertaining to hunting will be enforced.  You may only hunt in the areas and during the times specified in the current year's brochure. Download the current Refuge Hunting Brochure, or stop by a visitor center to obtain a copy.  Make sure to observe posted refuge boundary signs and no hunting zones closely since some refuge areas are adjacent buildings, private property or critical habitat areas.  Click here to learn more about Refuge rules and regulations.

    Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge encourages hunters to use lead free ammunition when deer hunting. Research has found that lead pieces left behind in the gut piles of deer are dangerous and even deadly to the eagles and other wildlife that eat them. Learn how you can make the switch to non-lead ammunition at


  • Fishing


    Shore fishing and ice fishing are allowed on most refuge waters.  Consult Minnesota Department of Health fish consumption guidelines before eating any fish.  Boat fishing is only allowed on the Minnesota River.  For Minnesota River boat launch access information, please contact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.  The Youth Fishing Pond at the Bass Ponds is part of the Fishing in the Neighborhood program, and is stocked with bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish. 

    All Minnesota state regulations pertaining to fishing apply.  Refuge-specific regulations, which may be more restrictive, will also be enforced.  Make sure to observe posted refuge boundaries and "no fishing" signs.  Contact the refuge at 952-854-5900 or email for further information.

    Learn More

  • Interpretation


    National Wildlife Refuges across the country provide opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to the natural world.  Self-guided hikes and staff-led programs help visitors learn more about the wildlife and habitats behind the landscapes. Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge provides a variety of public programs throughout the year.  Programs and events are free, geared for youth and adults and provide a range of opportunities that maximize first-hand experiences along the river and trails in the refuge. For current programs, visit our Events Calendar.

  • Environmental Education

    Environmental Education

    Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge offers a wide diversity of  environmental education opportunities for schools, teachers, youth groups, and families.  For more information, visit the For Educators web page.

  • Photography


    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on National Wildlife Refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography.  The Refuge has two portable nature photography blinds available for use on refuge lands.  They weigh 9 lbs. and are 68" square by 78" tall with four window openings, and fit in a backpack carrying case.  Blinds may be reserved for up to three days and can be checked out at either visitor center.  A $25 deposit is required, payable by cash or check at check-out, and refunded when the blind is returned in good condition.  To reserve the photo blind, call refuge staff (952-854-5900) or e-mail

    Commercial still and video photography (including professional wedding and family photography, for example) require a special use permit.  To inquire or apply for a permit, contact the Deputy Refuge Manager, Eric Mruz, at 952-858-0722 or email  Follow this link to learn more about Special Use Permits.

    Drone use is not a permitted activity on any Refuge unit. Drone use prohibition includes, but is not limited to launching or retrieving drones, or operating drones in airspace above Refuge lands for recreational or commercial purposes.  (50 CFR 27.34)