Historical land use practices have created unique habitat at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge for many rare and uncommon species of animals and plants. The 50,000 acres of land has been designated as a Globally Important Bird Area.
Days Open for Public Use

Big Oaks is generally open to visitors on Mondays and Fridays and the second and fourth Saturday of each month except for Federal Holidays (Oct. 9 and Nov 10 are Federal Holidays). The refuge will be having special hunts in October  and November where only hunters will be allowed to be present. Open days for general public use will be Oct. 2, Oct. 6, Oct. 13, Oct. 16, Oct. 20, Oct. 23, Oct. 27, Oct. 30, Nov 3, Nov. 6, Nov. 13, and Nov.17.  State drawn archery deer hunt days will be Oct. 7-8, Oct. 14-15.  The State drawn primitive muzzleloader/archery deer hunt will be Oct. 21- 22.  A Youth deer hunting workshop will take place at 5 pm on Oct. 27 and the youth hunt day will be Oct. 28.  State drawn firearms deer hunt days will be Oct. 29, Nov. 4, Nov. 5, Nov. 11-12, and Nov. 18-19.  Drawn hunters can review the information packet that was e-mailed to them or found on their state DNR account. For more information check the refuge website's hunt page or call the refuge office at 812-273-0783. 

Visit Us

For a first visit to Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge, please allow at least an hour to stop at the office, take the safety briefing and obtain a daily pass. That’s also a great time to talk with the staff about activities available on the refuge, pick up a refuge map, and find out about current wildlife sightings.  

Location and Contact Information

      Join the Christmas Bird Count at Big Oaks!

      The annual Big Oaks Christmas Bird Count will be held on Saturday, December 30, 2023. Volunteers are needed to count birds for a half-day (until noon, or noon to sunset) or all day. The group will meet at 8:00 am at the Big Oaks NWR office. The Big Oaks Conservation Society, a not-for-profit refuge support group, will provide lunch for volunteers at the refuge office. If you are interested in participating call the refuge office at 812-273-0783. 

      Tours

      The refuge offers guided tours by van throughout the public use season. Special guided tours can be requested for birding, wildflower hikes, and historical tours of the property. Visitors can also schedule tours of the historic Old Timbers Lodge.  For more information call the refuge Office. Tours of the refuge could be restricted due to pandemic restrictions.

      What We Do

      Wildlife and habitat management, especially for rare and endangered species, are the priorities for Big Oaks staff. Various kinds of surveys and monitoring take place annually on the refuge, usually in cooperation with local universities.  Past projects have included monitoring endangered Indiana bats, American burying beetles, and American kestrels. Volunteers and interns have assisted with many surveys of forest and grassland bird nest productivity, cerulean warbler nesting ecology, and small mammal biodiversity.  The most recent and on-going project on the refuge is providing habitat for monitoring the state-endangered crawfish frog.

      Services
      Entrance sign at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge

      Activities at Big Oaks require paying either a daily fee of $3 for a public access permit or $15 for an annual access permit with certain exceptions. Holders of a Federal Duck Stamp do not need to pay a fee or does anyone age 15 and under. Holders of Federal Interagency Senior, Access, and...

      Our Organization

      A bright blue sky obstructed by fluffy white clouds reflected off of a stream shot from inside a kayak
      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages an unparalleled network of public lands and waters called the National Wildlife Refuge System. With more than 560 refuges spanning the country, this system protects iconic species and provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities on Earth.

      Our Species

      Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge is a Globally Important Bird Area and hosts one of the world’s largest populations of Henslow’s sparrows. The refuge also provides nesting habitat for cerulean warblers, temporary wetlands and grasslands for state endangered crawfish frogs and habitat for many other rare species of animals and plants.

      Bald eagle up close with wing raised

      A large raptor, the bald eagle has a wingspread of about seven feet. Adults have a dark brown body and wings, white head and tail, and a yellow beak. Juveniles are mostly brown with white mottling on the body, tail, and undersides of wings. Adult plumage usually is obtained by the sixth year. In...

      FWS Focus

      Projects and Research

      Big Oaks has been monitoring and managing for the state endangered crawfish frog for many years.  Other research projects have included the monitoring of Indiana bats, saw-whet owls,American burying beetles, and American kestrels.

      Northern saw-whet owls migrate through Indiana every fall and banding has taken place at Big Oaks for many years to learn more about the owl's distribution and abundance. Banding takes place on nights in early Novem ber where the birds are caught in mist nets (similar to a fine mesh tennis net).