Visitor Activities

Visitor Activities

Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge offers a wide variety of seasonal and year-round accessible recreational opportunities that are wildlife compatible. Wildlife observation, bird watching, education, photography, hunting and fishing are all popular activities at Sand Lake.

  • Hunting

    Hunting is an important wildlife management tool that we recognize as a healthy, traditional outdoor pastime, deeply rooted in America’s heritage.  Hunting can instill a unique understanding and appreciate of wildlife, their behavior, and their habitat needs.

    Hunting is allowed on certain areas of the refuge, but there are specific rules and regulations in place. Please  contact the refuge office for more information

    **Please note: there was a misprint in this years Hunting Handbook regarding the Sand Lake NWR pheasant hunting season dates. Please see the link below to the Upland Game Regulations for the correct dates and other Refuge-specific regulations. 


    2018 Deer Hunting Regulations

    2018 Upland Game Regulations

    2018 Waterfowl Hunting Regulations

  • Fishing

    In addition to the conservation of wildlife and habitat, the Refuge System offers a wide variety of quality fishing opportunities.  Fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the Refuge System.  Every year, about 7 million anglers visit national wildlife refuges, where knowledgeable staff and thousands of volunteers help them have a wonderful fishing experience.

    Fishing is permitted on Sand Lake NWR at five locations. Please click on the link below to read the rules & regulations for fishing on the refuge, as well as a map showing the designated fishing areas. Please obey all signs and stay within the fishing areas. Contact the refuge office for further information.

    Fishing Regulations

  • Wildlife Viewing

    If you enjoy getting outdoors and looking for wildlife, consider a visit to your nearest national wildlife refuge!  From birding to whale watching, from viewing speedy pronghorn antelope or slow-moving box turtles, wildlife observation is the most popular activity for refuge visitors.

    Perhaps the most popular attraction at Sand Lake is the concentrations of migrating waterfowl. Hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese, and other migratory birds stop at the refuge every year providing for spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities. The refuge is also home to many species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Sand Lake offers several areas specifically set aside for wildlife observation and outdoor enjoyment. The "Wildlife Drive" auto tour route, observation tower, Sand Lake Overlook, and the Columbia & Hecla Day Use Areas provide opportunities for visitors to get up close to South Dakota wildlife.

    Sand Lake NWR Wildlife Observation Areas  

    For more information about wildlife observation opportunities at Sand Lake NWR, contact the refuge office.

    Birds of Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge  

  • Interpretation

    Refuge System interpretation programs provide opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to the natural world.  From self-guided walks to ranger-led programs, many national wildlife refuges help visitors learn more about the wildlife and habitat behind the landscapes.

    In addition to staff and volunteers presenting programs to audiences, refuges use a variety of exhibits, signs, brochures, and electronic media to communicate natural history stories to visitors.  Printed and virtual information is often available on many topics, including plants and animals, seasonal migrations, habitats, refuge management strategies, and endangered species at the Sand Lake refuge headquarters building.

    Contact the Sand Lake refuge office for more information.

  • Environmental Education

    National Wildlife Refuges serve many purposes, and one of our most important roles is as outdoor classrooms to teach about wildlife and natural resources.  Many refuges offer environmental education programs for a variety of audiences.  Refuges provide unique and exciting outdoor environments – excellent locations for hands-on learning activities.  Thousands of youth and adult groups visit every year to learn about a specific topic on wildlife, habitat, or ecological processes.

    Is your school, youth, environmental or other group interested in learning more about the wildlife, plants, habitats and ecology of a particular national wildlife refuge?  Contact or visit Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge to check on program availability and reservation policies.  Refuges are wild places, and we want to teach you more about them!

  • Photography

    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography.  That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate.  You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started.  A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

    Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and national wildlife refuges naturally are at the top of the list.  Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, and tour routes.  Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System.  We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card or internal hard drive!