Visitor Activities

Bald eagle in flight. Credit: Kent Mason

Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge is one of a special set of federal lands set aside for fish and wildlife as a primary purpose.  The six wildlife dependent activities allowed on Refuge lands are described in detail below. All refuge property is open to the public from an hour before sunrise to an hour after sunset.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    Wildlife viewing blind. Credit: USFWS

    Wildlife viewing includes activities as structured as birding or as casual as just exploring the refuge's many islands and trails. Anyplace on the refuge is good for Wildlife Viewing - all the islands are open to public visitation - but some good places to start are:

    - The mile and a half of trails around the visitor facility near Williamstown, West Virginia. These include upland forest, grassland, riparian forest, and river habitats. (These trails remain open during hunting season; archery hunting is allowed adjacent to the public trails in a marked hunting area)
    - The trails, auto tour, and viewing blind on Middle Island adjacent to St. Marys, West Virginia.  (Trails at the head of the island are closed during hunting season, but most of the trails remain open and are safe to hike).
    - On a boat around any island.

    It is impossible to predict what you will see on the refuge.  Wildlife is free to come and go.  Animals respond to the weather and other less apparent variables.  Many birds change seasonally. Middle island is a great place to spot Red fox. White-tailed deer are common on every island. The Birds and Butterflies trail adjacent to the visitor center is a great place to find Monarch butterflies (in late summer). Great blue herons are most common around Fish Creek, Grape, and Letart Islands. Bald eagle are most commonly see around Broadback, Neal, and Grandview Islands (winter).

    Ohio River Islands NWR Bird List (pdf)

  • Interpretation

    Adults at a refuge program. Credit: USFWS

    Resource interpretation refers to educational programs designed to enhance a visit to the refuge. These free programs, based on a variety of topics and themes describing what's here, what we do, and why it matters, are scheduled throughout the year. These include small-scale events like weekly wildlife programs for kids during the summer, guided bird walks, and the Wild Ohio! talk in our visitor center, as well as larger festivals which have been held during refuge week or on International Migratory Bird Day. Please look for specific dates on our events calendar.

  • Environmental Education

    Kids at an environmental education program. Credit: USFWS

    An ever-increasing body of scientific data points to the importance of kids spending quality time in nature. Teachers of all kinds are encouraged to use the refuge as an educational resource. To plan an environmental education program at the refuge, be sure to visit the For Educators section of our website or contact refuge staff at 304-375-2923 ext. 117.

  • Photography

    Photographer. Credit: USFWS

    The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge offers great opportunities for photographers. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, shots of wildlife or the landscape can be found every day.

    Some popular shots include:

    - Heron rookeries on Fish Creek, Grape, and Letart Islands.
    - Wintering waterfowl in backchannels and embayments.
    - Colorful insects along the butterfly trail at the visitor facility
    - Sunrises and sunsets on the river.

    If you would like to share your picture, email us a copy with your name and a description of when and where it was taken and we may post it on our Facebook page and website.

  • Hunting

    Hunter in stand. Credit: USFWS

    Deer (restricted to archery), rabbit and squirrel (restricted to shotgun), waterfowl, coots, rails, gallinules, snipe, woodcock, and dove, are the only species hunted on the refuge. A refuge hunting permit and appropriate state license are required. Refuge permits will be available from August through February each year. For refuge and state regulations, refuge permit and state license information visit the Permits section of our website.

  • Fishing

    Fisherman in a boat. Credit: USFWS

    Some of the best fishing in the Ohio River occurs around refuge islands. All refuge property is open to fishing during regular refuge hours unless otherwise posted. Bank fishing access is available at the refuge visitor facility in Williamstown, WV as well as on Middle Island in St. Marys, WV. State regulations are in effect with additional refuge regulations prohibiting the use of trotlines.

    - West Virginia Fishing Regulations

    - Pennsylvania Fishing Regulations

    - Kentucky Fishing Regulations

    - Reciprocal Agreement between Ohio and West Virginia (pdf)