Visitor Activities

Wildlife Observation at Salt Meadow
  • Hunting

    Law Enforcement Officer speaks with hunters at Great Meadows

    The refuge operates a waterfowl hunting program during the fall and winter months at the Great Meadows Unit in Stratford. A free permit is required to participate in the hunting program. Individuals interested in obtaining the free permit and more information about the program may call the Visitor Services Manager at 860-399-2513. Hunting on other units of the refuge, and hunting wildlife other than waterfowl, is not currently allowed.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    Wildlife observation at Salt Meadows

    Trails and 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.

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

    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 owl prowls, wildlife photography workshops, programs on plants and animals, history talks and nature walks. These programs are all offered free of charge. Call the Visitor Services Manager at 860-399-2513 for more information.

  • Environmental Education

    Environmental Education

    The refuge offers many 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.

    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.

    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 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. Be sure to obey "no landing" signs.

    There is no fishing access directly from the refuge. However, Gatchen Creek and the Menunketesuck River adjacent to the Salt Meadow Unit of the refuge, provide good areas for crabbing and kayaking. These areas may be accessed from the public boat launch on Rt. 145 in Westbrook. Fishing near the Milford Point Unit is popular, but anglers are asked to obey all posted signs and closed areas on the refuge.