Visitor Activities

Bridge in the woods

In 1997, the President of the United States signed the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act into law. The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act recognizes six wildlife-dependent recreational uses, that when determined to be compatible, are legitimate and appropriate public uses of the Refuge System. These appropriate uses include hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and environmental education and interpretation.

  • Hunting

    Three deer in a field

    Hunting (Deer, turkey, coyote, squirrel and rabbit)

    Hunting on the refuge is offered by permit on most units and by the use of an online check in/check out system for other units. The refuge allows stand/blind hunting only for deer, turkey and coyote. The use of hunting dogs is prohibited. We offer permits for two seasons of archery hunting (each season is two weeks in length, excluding Sundays), four days of muzzleloader hunting, and 10 days of shotgun hunting. Archery permits cost $30.00 per hunter per season; archery hunting opportunities are offered on nine of our units. Muzzleloader permits cost $10.00 per hunter per day and two-day shotgun permits are $20.

    2021 Hunting Information

  • Fishing

    Fishing pier

    Fishing is permitted in Wilna Pond, Laurel Grove Pond, and from the pier at Hutchinson and is open year-round to the public (however, areas maybe closed certain days due to hunting opportunities and/or special events). Wilna pond is a 35 acre freshwater home to largemouth bass, bluegill sunfish, fliers, yellow bullhead catfish, and American eel. Fishing is permitted from the pier or the bank, but not from the catwalk of the dam. The pond is also accessible to hand-launchable boats. The ten acre freshwater pond at Laurel Grove is accessible by hand-launchable boats or bank fishing from the dam. The Hutchinson tract borders scenic Mount Landing Creek shortly before it flows into the Rappahannock River. Fishing is only permitted from the pier.

    Download the fishing brochure (pdf)

  • Wildlife Viewing

    owl in a tree

    Excellent wildlife viewing is offered seven days a week from sunrise to sunset at our Wilna, Hutchinson, Laurel Grove, and Port Royal Units (units closed during our permitted hunt days). A handicap accessible blind is located along one of the nature trails at the Wilna Unit and can be reserved for wildlife observation by calling 804-333-1470 ext. 111. This trail also offers a raised platform overlooking one of the unit’s grassland habitats.

    Camera trapping is an excellent technique to passively observe wildlife at home. A comprehensive guide to effective camera trapping, provided by Northern Neck Master Naturalist Kevin Howe, is below.

    Download the bird brochure (pdf)

    Download the Wilna Trail Map (pdf)

    Download the Hutchinson Trail Map (pdf)

    Virtual Tour of the Wilna Unit

    Download the Camera Trapping Guide (pdf) 


  • Interpretation

    Blue goose and Teddy Roosevelt mascots with a young boy

    The refuge hosts Go Wild, an annual festival to celebrate conservation, at the Hutchinson Unit. The event includes kids programs, nature walks, conservation exhibitors, free raffles, and much more.

    The refuge offers its annual Kids Fishing Day event on the first Saturday in June. The event is open to children ages 4 to 15 and offers fishing clinics and a morning of fishing in Wilna pond. A raffle is held during the event and prizes are awarded for different categories regarding the fishing tournament.

    Refuges across the country celebrate an annual National Wildlife Refuge Week during the second week in October. During this week, there are many opportunities to participate in virtual and in-person events such as guided kayak paddles, scavenger hunts, contests, and much more! Details and activities from the refuge's 2021 celebrations are linked below.

    Be on the lookout for additional interpretation programs hosted by the refuge throughout the year. 

    2021 National Wildlife Refuge Week Celebration

    For more information, please contact:

    Visitor Services
    804-333-1470 x 111

  • Environmental Education

    Service employee teaching a group of young children

    The refuge is proud to have environmental education sites at the Wilna Pond Outdoor Classroom (Richmond County) and the Hutchinson tract (Essex County). Both areas feature classroom sites (pond/creek, grassland, woodland habitats), fully accessible fishing piers, and accessible trails. Interpretive programs are also offered to groups, providing we have staff available to accommodate the request and by advanced reservation only. Educators are encouraged to contact the refuge to inquire about equipment available for environmental education activities.

    For more information, please call our administrative office at 804-333-1470 ext. 111.

  • Photography

    Raptor in a tree

    The refuge’s forested riparian habitats along the Rappahannock River is the proud home to nesting and roosting bald eagles. Bald eagle habitat protection and enhancement remains a high priority as it is one of the purposes for the establishment of the refuge. Although bald eagles can be found on the refuge all year, the months of December, January, and February provide the best opportunity to view a large amount of wintering eagles.

    The forest habitats on and surrounding the refuge are used by at least 37 bird species of conservation concern. During the breeding season (May/June/July) Louisiana waterthrush, ovenbird, worm-eating warblers, yellow-throated vireo, wood thrush, scarlet tanager, chuck-will’s widow, whip-poor-will, eastern towhee, and brown thrasher are frequently observed.