Rules and Regulations

Wetland at Union Slough NWR

 Welcome to your national wildlife refuge. Discover new places to hunt, fish, hike, take pictures, and watch wildlife. Enjoy spending time outdoors alone or with friends and family. Please consult the Refuge Manager at 515-928-2523 if you have questions. We may post additional site-specific regulations.

To report a wildlife violation call 1-844-NWR-TIPS (844-697-8477)


To ensure your safety and protect wildlife and habitat, please be aware of these regulations. 

General Restrictions

• Access to the refuge is open from sunrise until sunset unless otherwise posted or stated in hunting regulations.

We prohibit:  

• Target shooting.
• Training pets and allowing pets outside of a vehicle except dogs used for hunting during the small game and migratory bird hunting seasons (See Hunting Section below).
• All types of motorized vehicles on all refuge land (to include on frozen bodies of water) except on designated parking areas, public roads and the Auto Tour Route (See Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge Specific regulations below).
• Watercraft use except non-motorized and electric powered boats used for fishing and migratory bird hunting in Buffalo Creek Bottoms.
• Camping, open fires and overnight parking.
• Abandoning, discarding or otherwise leaving any personal property. All property brought onto a refuge must be removed at the end of each day. This includes all common items like vehicles, boats, decoys, trail cameras, blinds, geo-caching items, photography equipment, ice fishing shelters and portable stands/blinds except those used for deer hunting. (See the Hunting section below).
• Destructing, defacing, disturbing or unauthorized removal of any natural object, artifact, cultural resource or government property.
• Introducing, liberating, or placing plants or animals or their parts taken elsewhere on refuge lands or waters.
• Disposing of animal carcasses, trash, refuse, rocks, wood or other debris.
• Cutting, mowing, sawing, digging, collecting, injuring or removing vegetation. However, you may construct temporary hunting blinds using vegetation found on the Refuge (See the Hunting below).
• Launching, landing or disturbing of wildlife by aircraft (drones) on the refuge. This includes for recreational or commercial purposes.
• Commercial enterprise without a special use permit.
• Use or possession of any illegal drug or drug paraphernalia is prohibited.

Hunting

• Hunting is an approved use on the refuge that has additional requirements than state regulations based on location, timing, methods of take, etc… Please see the Union Slough Hunting Brochure for specific details and regulations.
• Small game hunting is an approved use on the refuge. Hunters using shotguns, including turkey hunters, are required to use and possess only non-toxic shot.
• During the small game and migratory bird seasons, hunting dogs must be under the immediate control of the hunter.
• Hunters must wear an article of blaze orange consistent with state regulations.
• We prohibit constructing or occupying permanent stands or blinds. We also prohibit the use of nails, wire, screws or bolts to attach a stand to a tree or hunting from a tree, into which a metal object has been driven to support a hunter.
• We allow the use of non-motorized and electric powered boats for migratory bird hunting in Buffalo Creek Bottoms.
• We prohibit the use or possession of alcoholic beverages while hunting.
• We prohibit distribution of feed or bait, or hunting over bait. This includes salts and minerals.

Trapping

• Trapping is an approved use on the refuge by special use permit only.

Fishing

• Fishing is an approved use on the refuge that has additional requirements than state regulations based on location, timing, species, methods of take, etc... Please see the Union Slough Public Use Brochure for specific details and regulations.
• We prohibit the use or possession of lead terminal tackle.
• We allow the use of non-motorized and electric powered boats for fishing in Buffalo Creek Bottoms.
• We prohibit all types of motorized vehicles on frozen water bodies.

Artificial Lights

• You may not use a spotlight, headlight or other artificial light to spot, locate or take any wild animal in a refuge.

Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge Specific

• The Auto Tour Route is open sunrise to sunset from August 1 – September 20 each year. In addition, the Route is open around International Migratory Bird Day in early May and National Wildlife Refuge Week in early October – because these dates change each year… please call the Office at 515-928-2523 or check the rotating messages on the front page of this website for exact dates.
• The observation platform located ¼ mile south of the Refuge Office is open year-round to pedestrian access and to vehicle access for persons with disabilities.

Additional Information

• The above information is a partial list of rules and regulations. Consult the Union Slough Public Use Brochure and the Union Slough Hunting Brochure for more details.

Special-use permits may be issued for compatible secondary uses upon approval of the refuge manager. Contact the refuge office for application information at 515-928-2523.