Visitor Activities

Wildlife Observation at Salt Meadow
  • Hunting

    Law Enforcement Officer speaks with hunters at Great Meadows

    From mid-September through the winter months, the refuge operates hunting programs for turkey, deer and waterfowl at various units. Our Recreational Hunt Plan is available here.

    In addition to State of Connecticut hunting requirements, there are special hunting regulations in effect at the refuge. Each hunter is requiring to have a signed hunt brochure/map while on the refuge engaged in this activity. New 2021 hunt brochures/maps will be posted on this webpage in summer 2021.

    Individuals seeking more information about the hunt program may email the Visitor Services Manager or call 860-399-2513. 

  • Wildlife Viewing

    Wildlife observation at Salt Meadows

    Wildlife viewing is encouraged in nearly every part of the McKinney Refuge. Trails and wildlife observation platforms at the Salt Meadow Unit in Westbrook and Great Meadows Unit in Stratford offer views of some of the only large coastal wetlands remaining in Connecticut. These units are designated Important Bird Areas and contain a wide variety of songbirds, waterfowl, and long-legged waders like herons and egrets. Mammals, reptiles and other wildlife are also abundant there. The forest, meadow and marsh habitat is beautiful at any time of year.

    The Milford Point Unit is located adjacent to a large state wildlife area and Connecticut Audubon's Coastal Center, with the whole area offering amazing wildlife viewing opportunities year-round. 

    Island units such as Chimon and Sheffield in Norwalk, Calf Island in Greenwich, and Outer Island in Branford offer good opportunities to see shorebirds and seabirds, unique plants, as well as crustaceans and other aquatic species.

    Visitors must remain on established trails, at viewing platforms and other open areas of the refuge. Going off trail into forest, marsh or other habitats is prohibited.

    Learn more about wildlife viewing opportunities on the refuge.

  • Interpretation

    Interpretive panel on Outer Island

    Trails and facilities at the refuge offer wayside interpretive panels where visitors may learn about such varied topics as the Atlantic Flyway, the geology of Long Island Sound, the importance of saltmarshes, and many others.

    The refuge also offers interpretive programs on natural and cultural topics throughout the year. Examples of these include programs on specific plant and animal species, history talks and nature walks. All refuge-sponsored interpretive programs are offered free of charge. Call the Visitor Services Manager at 860-399-2513 for more information.

    Visitors must remain on established trails, at viewing platforms and other open areas of the refuge. Going off trail into forest, marsh or other habitats is prohibited.

  • Environmental Education

    Environmental Education

    The refuge offers opportunities for schools, scout troops, home schoolers and others to participate in quality environmental education programs.

    The Nature of Learning is our most successful program. It provides two classroom-based environmental education lessons and one field trip and lesson on the refuge. The curriculum for the Nature of Learning is based on Connecticut state standards for the 4th grade, and it may be adapted for other groups.

    People with interest in these or other educational opportunities should call the Visitor Services Manager at 860-399-2513 for more information.

    Visitors must remain on established trails, at viewing platforms and other open areas of the refuge. Going off trail into forest, marsh or other habitats is prohibited.

    Learn more at our For Educators page.

     

  • Photography

    Photography at Salt Meadow

    Whether using a high-end digital camera or a small cell phone, opportunities to take photographs at the refuge are endless. 

    People interested in architecture might want to visit Salt Meadow in Westbrook to photograph the historic buildings and cultural landscape. Others may want to take a summer boat ride to Outer Island and photograph American Oystercatchers, Cormorants and other birds. The Norwalk Harbor around Peach Island at low tide can also be a bird photographer's paradise. Visiting the refuge’s marshes in winter may allow visitors the opportunity to photograph hooded mergansers and other beautiful waterfowl.

    The refuge opens ½ hour before sunrise and closes ½ hour after sunset to allow the best wildlife viewing and photography.

    Visitors must remain on established trails, at viewing platforms and other open areas of the refuge. Going off trail into forest, marsh or other habitats is prohibited.

    Learn more about photography opportunities on the refuge.

  • Boating and Fishing

    Kayakers on Outer Island.

    There are tremendous opportunities to boat or paddle at the refuge. Paddling along Westbrook's Menunketesuck River in summer provides great views of the Salt Meadow Unit and marsh birds like egrets, ibises, willets and herons. In fall the paddle is absolutely beautiful, and it allows visitors to see foliage in every shade of red, orange yellow and brown. There is a small boat launch open to the public without charge along Rt. 145 in Westbrook.

    Small motorboats and kayaks may access refuge units such as Outer Island and Sheffield Island (fee to dock) very easily, as good docking facilities are available there during the summer. On refuge units where there are currently no docks, such as Chimon Island and Calf Island, kayakers may pull up to the open beaches and explore the refuge from there. Motorboats may also be moored offshore in designated areas. Visitors should be sure to obey "no landing" signs.

    Fishing is not allowed at the refuge - even "catch and release". However, areas adjacent to the refuge provide opportunities to anglers. Gatchen Creek and the Menunketesuck River, which run through Salt Meadow, provide good areas for crabbing and fishing. These areas may be accessed from the Town of Westbrook's public boat launch on Rt. 145. Fishing near the Milford Point Unit - adjacent to Charles Wheeler Wildlife Management Area - is popular, but anglers are asked to obey all posted signs and closed areas on the refuge.