Rules and Regulations

Raccoon by Mike Peters

On a National Wildlife Refuge, Wildlife Comes First!

Keep in mind, if an activity is not wildlife-related, and doesn’t help in the protection or understanding of wildlife or their habitat, there are probably refuge rules governing this activity. There are plenty of activities on the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex for you to enjoy. Be safe and have fun!


All areas of the Sacramento NWR are closed to public entry unless otherwise explicitly posted as an auto tour route, nature trail, hunting area, or parking area. Some areas are closed seasonally and are posted as such.

 The following rules apply except where otherwise posted 

Visitors to National Wildlife Refuges must comply with all applicable local, State, Federal regulations and signs.

  • Hours of Operation:
    Go to our "Plan Your Visit" page to find hours for the Auto Tour Routes, Trails, and Visitor Center.  
  • Fees and Permits:
    • The Sacramento NWR collects a $6 day use fee for the Auto Tour Route (annual passes are $12). Holders of a Federal Duck Stamp and various Interagency Passes get in for free. There are no fees for use of the trails or Auto Tour at the other refuges (Colusa NWR, Sutter NWR, Sacramento River NWR, Llano Seco Unit).  Visit our "Permits" page for more fee information.  
    • Specific State/Federal permits/licenses are required for hunting (Sacramento NWR, Delevan NWR, Colusa NWR, Sutter NWR, Sacramento River NWR) and fishing (allowed on Sacramento River NWR only).  Visit our Hunt Area Permits page for more information. Hunters must comply with State of California license requirements and regulations.  See State of California Department of Fish and Wildlife website for more information: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/ 
    • A Special Use Permit (SUP) is required to enter closed areas or conduct activities that are otherwise prohibited (ie research projects, commercial activities, large organized events). For more information, contact the Complex Headquarters to speak with the refuge manager of the area where the proposed activity will occur: (530)934-2801. Visit our "Permits" page for more fee and permits information.
       
        
     
  • Auto Tour: 
    While on the Auto Tour Routes (Sacramento NWR and Colusa NWR), visitors are required to stay in their vehicles. The Sacramento NWR Auto Tour has 3 park-and-stretch areas to allow visitors to get out of their vehicles. This is a citable offense with fines up to $275.
     
  • Respect Closed Zones:
    National Wildlife Refuges were created for wildlife. Areas throughout the refuge are designated as closed or restricted-use areas to protect wildlife or for public safety. Please read and adhere to the regulations identified by signs. 
    • OPEN AreasAreas open to public use will be posted as such. Road entrances to public use areas have a large brown refuge sign, open gate, and posted hours. Areas open to the public include designated Auto Tour Routes, Nature Trails, and Parking Lots. Areas open to the public are listed on the refuge public use maps – follow the “MAPS” tab on the right side of this web page. Public use areas are DAY USE ONLY. 
    • CLOSED Areas:  Areas closed to the public include all property that is not explicitly posted as an area open to the public. Closed area boundaries are posted along accessible areas with signs that may list the following: “UNAUTHORIZED ENTRY PROHIBITED”; “AREA BEYOND THIS SIGN CLOSED All public entry prohibited.” Visitors must stay out of posted closed areas. Visitors that enter posted closed areas are trespassing and are subject to law enforcement action including citations. 
     
  • Hunting: 
    Hunting is allowed in designated areas of Sacramento NWR, Delevan NWR, Colusa NWR, Sutter NWR, and Sacramento River NWR with appropriate licenses and permits. Visit the Sacramento NWR Complex hunting page and the Sacramento River NWR hunting page for more information.
     
  • Dogs/Pets:
    Dogs are allowed where visitors are allowed. Dogs must be on-leash (no more than 6 ft long) while on trails or parking lots, except for authorized hunting activities under the immediate control of a licensed hunter. Owners/handlers are responsible for disposal of dog droppings on refuge public use concentration areas such as trails and parking lots. National Wildlife Refuges provide habitat for native wildlife. Pets (including waterfowl) are not allowed to be released on the refuge. 

  • Speed: 
    The on-refuge speed limit is 15 mph. 
 
  • Accessibility: 
    The Complex is committed to providing equal opportunities for all of our visitors. Refuge-specific brochures are available in Braille and audio versions. A CD is available in the Visitor Center describing the Auto Tour of the Sacramento NWR. All tour routes, platforms, and public buildings have access for people with disabilities. The north loop of the Wetland Walk Trail is wheelchair accessible. The restrooms at Sacramento and Colusa NWRs and the Llano Seco Unit are accessible. For information on hunting, visit the hunting accessibility page.
     
  • Camping and Fires:
    Camping is not permitted on the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, with the exception of the following: 1) on the Sacramento River, camping is permitted on gravel bars for up to 7 days during a 30 day period, and 2) for waterfowl hunting, an overnight stay is permitted inside a vehicle or RV in designated areas; tents are prohibited. No person may build or maintain fires except for the use of portable gas stoves on Sacramento River gravel bars and in Hunter Check Station parking lots. See our "Plan Your Visit" page for information on some local areas to spend the night.
     
  • Fishing:
    Fishing is only permitted on Packer Lake (Sacramento River NWR) and on the Sacramento River. Follow state regulations.
     
  • Bicycles:
    Bicycling is only permitted on the following areas from May 15 - August 15:  Sacramento NWR Auto Tour, Colusa NWR Auto Tour, and Sacramento River NWR trails of the following units: Rio Vista, Pine Creek, Capay, Sul Norte, Packer, and Drumheller. Bicycling is otherwise not permitted. Visit the Bicycling page for more information.  

    PERMITTED Activities: 

    • Use of posted Auto Tour Routes (Sacramento NWR, Colusa NWR)
    • Use of posted Nature Trails (Sacramento NWR, Colusa NWR, Sutter NWR, Sacramento River NWR, Llano Seco Unit)
    • Use of posted Hunt Areas within approved hunting season (Sacramento NWR, Delevan NWR, Colusa NWR, Sutter NWR, Sacramento River NWR)
    • Use of posted Parking Lots
    • Pets on leash when outside vehicle
    • Day use only

     

    PROHIBITED Activities

    ALL areas of the refuges are CLOSED to public entry unless explicitly posted as a public-use area. Visitors must comply with ALL posted rules and regulations, in addition to what is listed below. Except where otherwise permitted/posted:

    • No trespassing in posted closed areas
    • No entry behind closed gates or fences
    • No night use
    • No travel off of designated public use road or trail
    • No parking outside of designated parking lots
    • No pets off leash when outside of vehicles
    • No dog field trials or dog training that involves being off-leash
    • No walking on auto tour routes
    • No horseback riding
    • No camping
    • No fires or open flame cooking grills
    • No weapons (except shotguns used during lawful hunting activities as authorized by permit)
    • No discharge of firearms (except during lawful hunting activities as authorized by permit)
    • No take, disturbance or collection of wildlife or plants
    • No search for or removal of objects of antiquity or other valued objects
    • No prospecting or mining
    • No littering
    • No removal of any property from refuge
    • No feeding wildlife
    • No spotlighting
    • No interference with persons engaged in authorized activities
    • No alcohol or illegal drugs, including marijuana 
    • No drone activity