Visitor Activities

Children Playing in a Lake


“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
— Rachel Carson




  • 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.

    As practiced on refuges, hunting, trapping and fishing do not pose a threat to wildlife populations, and in some instances are necessary for sound wildlife management.  For example, because their natural predators are gone, deer populations will often grow too large for the refuge habitat to support.

    Hunting programs can promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on lands and waters in the Refuge System.

    To find out more about hunting opportunities, seasons and regulations on Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, contact the refuge manager or refer to the Tennessee NWR Hunting Regulations.

  • Fishing

    Fishing is allowed on Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge in accordance with applicable state regulations subject to listed special regulations listed in the Tennessee NWR Fishing Regulations. The refuge is composed of three units, each with fishing opportunities seasonally. Fishing in interior impoundments is permitted during daylight hours only. The refuge has 23 boat ramps, all of which are open during daylight hours except for Henry County Port.  Certain areas of the refuge are closed to fishing from November 15 to March 15. Fishing does not require an additional refuge permit. 

    For specific information about fishing on Tennessee, locations of boat ramps or seasonally closed areas please refer to the Tennessee NWR Fishing Regulations.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    If you enjoy getting outdoors and looking for wildlife, consider a visit to Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge!  From backyard birding, serious birding, birding festivals and photography, wildlife observation is one of the most popular activities for refuge visitors.

    From the many miles of refuge roads to our observation decks to walking areas such as our hiking trails, the refuge has much to offer.

    On the 4th weekend of January, the refuge hosts the Wings of Winter Birding Festival along with other area public lands in the Kentucky Lake/Lake Barkley area. This festival is sponsored by the Friends of Tennessee NWR.

  • 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, Tennessee NWR aims to 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.

  • 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 Tennessee 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! 

  • Canoeing and Kayaking

    Looking for a location to do a little scenic peaceful paddling?  Have we got the locations for you!  Each of our three units on the refuge are full of easy accessed, remote and wildlife chocked places to launch your canoe or kayak.  For your best experience we recommend taking along sun screen, a hat, plenty of water and don't forget your cell phone and keys in a waterproof floatable container.  We also sometimes take a pair of small binoculars, because you will see lots of wildlife. 

    Remember, any place on the refuge is remote so make a plan, stick to the plan and tell someone where and when you are going. Always, always wear a life jacket while paddling!!

    We do need to tell you that there are motorboats you will encounter at these locations.  If you venture onto the main river, be mindful of crafts much larger than you such as barges, so we recommend sticking close to the shoreline. 

    Click here to see canoeing and kayaking descriptions and maps listed by unit.