Rules and Regulations

Wichita Mountains was established “for the protection of the game animals and birds.” The public is welcome to visit and engage in wildlife dependent recreation. To help facilitate your visit, the refuge has established specific rules and regulations. While onsite, visitors are expected to follow all federal laws, policies, and regulations. Please note: not all state laws are applicable to federal lands, please familiarize yourself with the regulations below to better ensure that you have a positive experience.

A Few Simple Rules 

For a copy of the official refuge brochure which includes these regulations and a map, click here.

Hiking and Picnicking

  • Hiking and picnicking are limited to daylight hours.
  • Group size limitations are listed as follows:  
    • 8 people or less on the Mt. Scott Roadway (when open).
    • 15 people or less in the Charon’s Garden Wilderness Area. 
    • 30 people or less in Dog Run Hollow/Lost Lake/Boulder area
    • There is no group size limit east of SH 115 except for the Mt. Scott Roadway.
  • Camping is allowed only in designated areas and by reservation only via 
  • Fires are allowed only in provided fire rings and grills of picnic/camping areas.
  • Fires must be attended at all times and completely extinguished before leaving.
  • Dead, downed wood may be gathered (no saws) for use only in designated areas.
  • Dispose of trash in appropriate receptacles; littering is prohibited.
Fishing and Boating
  • Fishing is permitted in accordance with state and federal regulations on all refuge lakes and streams in the public use area (see map).

  • Fish may be taken only with poles and lines or rods and reels.
  • Anglers may use tube-type floaters, life jackets, or buoyant vests.
  • Wading is permitted when fishing; swimming and snorkeling are prohibited.
  • Taking bait, frogs, or turtles from the refuge is prohibited.
  • Fishing piers are available near the Environmental Education Center and Lake Elmer Thomas.
  • Non-motorized boats, paddleboards, and boats less than 14’ with electric trolling motors are permitted only on Jed Johnson, Rush, Quanah Parker, and French Lakes.
  • Operators of motorized boats must use designated boat ramps.
  • Motorized boats and sailboats are permitted on Lake Elmer Thomas, but there is a no-wake rule across the entire surface of the lake.
  • No fishing from roadway bridges.
General Regulations
  • Observe posted speed limits, signs, and state traffic laws.
  • Motorized vehicles are allowed only on paved roads and parking areas, and in hardened, dirt pullouts and parking lots. 
  • Parking on the grass is prohibited; violators may be towed.
  • Parking in the roadway or obstructing traffic is prohibited.
  • Unless fishing, all parking areas, pullouts, refuge side roads, and trailheads close sunset to sunrise. Main roads remain open for travel at any time; thru traffic only.
  • Night time activities other than fishing are prohibited without a special use permit. 
  • Pets must be under direct control on a leash less than 10 feet long at all times.
  • Pets must be provided sufficient resources, care and protection from the environment to maintain their health when visiting the refuge.  Do not leave pets unattended in vehicles or abandon pets on the refuge.
  • The use of horses and other domesticated livestock on the refuge is prohibited.
  • Bicycles are allowed only on paved roads, the Mt. Scott Service Road, the Lake Elmer Thomas Service Road, and the LETRA Trail.
  • Alcoholic beverages, drugs, and drug paraphernalia are prohibited.
  • Fireworks are prohibited.
  • ATVs and UTVs are prohibited  
  • Drones, remote controlled aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles are prohibited.
  • Using skates, skateboards, longboards, luge boards, and other similar devices is prohibited. 
  • The installation, replacement, or removal of climbing anchors/bolts is prohibited.
  • Rock sports are allowed throughout the Public Use Area during daylights hours, with the notable exception of a prohibition against rappelling in the Narrows.
  • All caves, sinkholes, tunnels, and mines are closed to access to prevent the spread of White-nose syndrome.
  • The operation or use of audio devices including radios or other noise devices, so as to cause disturbance of wildlife or unreasonable disturbance to others in the vicinity, is prohibited.
  • Collection of plants, rocks, animals, minerals, bones, and antlers is prohibited.
  • Use of metal detectors or any activities that involve searching for, collecting or disturbing artifacts or treasures is prohibited.
  • Special Use Permits are required for all special events and commercial activities, including but not limited to:  night time activities, guided tours, filming, commercial photography, scuba diving instruction, fishing tournaments, and rock climbing classes.
  • Persons possessing, transporting, or carrying firearms on national wildlife refuges must comply with all provisions of state and local laws. Persons may only use (discharge) firearms in accordance with refuge regulations (50 CFR 27.42 and specific refuge regulations in 50 CFR Part 32).
  • Individuals that participate in hunting and fishing activities or who have a special use permit for collection on the refuge are subject to inspection of all harvested resources, licenses, permits, vehicles, containers, packs, bags etc., that are used in support of these permitted activities.
  • Hunting is permitted only in accordance with state and refuge regulations as listed in the Hunting Tear Sheet.