Plan Your Visit

Observation deck at sunset - Matt Poole/USFWS.

Know Before You Go

  • During the warmer months at the refuge, mosquitoes and other biting insects can be very bothersome. Greenheads, an aggressive blood – feeding horsefly, occur in large numbers on the refuge from July through mid-August. Ticks are common on the refuge and can transmit Lyme disease. Please stay on all designated trails and take appropriate precautions to avoid ticks and other insects.
  • Poison ivy is also common on the refuge and is contagious during all seasons. Staying on established trails is the best way to avoid poison ivy.
  • When the refuge beach is open, ocean swimming is permitted. However treacherous undertows, currents, and heavy surf may be present and lifeguards are not provided.
  • Carrying a water bottle, particularly during the warmer months, is always a good idea when visiting the refuge.
  • For comprehensive details about entrance fees and permit options, please see our Permits page.

Points of Interest

The refuge visitor center, which is co-located with our headquarters on the mainland, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days each week (contingent on the availability of volunteer staffing).  The center features multimedia exhibits, an auditorium where visitors can view an introductory video about the refuge, a multipurpose room, and a reading room operated by the Friends of Parker River NWR.

The refuge itself provides many visitor opportunities. From the 6.5 mile long Wildlife Drive, visitors can view wildlife in a variety of habitats including salt marsh, dune, and maritime forest. The NEW and fully wheelchair accessible Hellcat Boardwalk Trail meanders through marsh, maritime forest, and dune habitats. A number of other boardwalks provide access to the refuge’s ocean beach (when the beaches aren’t closed because of piping plover management – April 1st thru late summer). Two observation towers, the wheelchair accessible Pines Trail, the Bill Forward Bird Blind, and a number of other wildlife viewing areas provide almost limitless opportunities to observe, photograph and otherwise enjoy wildlife.

If you plan to visit the refuge as part of a group, you may need and/or benefit from a Special Use Permit. 

Download the Special Use Permit fact sheet (PDF).