Facility Rules and Policies

The refuge offers wildlife-dependent recreation for visitors and rules are in place to protect wildlife and the habitat they rely upon. Wildlife on the refuge need to feed and rest with minimal disturbance by humans and this can result in better viewing opportunities for visitors. Please be mindful of allowing wildlife to remain undisturbed and be respectful of other visitors. Activities at a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

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are restricted unless specifically allowed. If it's not a wildlife-dependent activity (birdwatching, wildlife viewing, wildlife photography), then it's probably restricted or not allowed.  This list of the refuge's rules and policies is not comprehensive. Before you act, ask first!

Refuge Hours

The refuge entrance road, parking areas, and trails are only open to the public from sunrise to sunset. The entrance gate is scheduled to automatically open and close. Be cognizant of sunset and depart before the gates close.

  • Overnight parking and camping is not permitted.
  • Campfires and grills (electric, propane) are not permitted on the Refuge.
  • Parking vehicles overnight is prohibited.
Trespassing into Closed Areas

Refuge trails are designed to guide visitors through the diversity of habitats while minimizing disturbance to wildlife. Natural vegetation creates blinds and enables visitors to blend into the background, leading to better wildlife viewing.  Please follow and obey all refuge signs and stay on open trails. Areas that are off-limits for the public are protected areas for wildlife and could potentially have safety hazards, as well. Walking off trails damages lands and can disperse invasive plant species to new areas.   

  • Stay on designated trails.
  • Obey closed area signs on fences, gates, and along closed boundaries. There will be space in-between signs - this is not to imply visitors can still enter closed areas if they access between two closed signs. 
Non-Wildlife Dependent Recreation

While the refuge welcomes walking and enjoying nature and wildlife along the trails, some activities can be disturbing to wildlife and visitors that are here to enjoy nature. Activities permitted on the refuge include: wildlife observation, wildlife and landscape photography, interpretation, environmental education, and hunting. The refuge is not a typical park where people play ball, throw frisbees, fly kites, play games, use remote control toys, operate ham radios, play music, jog, or have parties with balloons and barbeques.  These and other recreational activities are not reliant on wildlife and can be performed at a different park. They are not permitted here. 

Pets and Fully Trained Service Animals

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is set aside for the protection and preservation of wildlife and habitats. Enjoy the opportunity to view wildlife, but leave your pet at home. Prohibiting pets on trails, parking areas, and roads within the refuge reduces disturbance to wildlife and habitat, and respects other visitors on the trail. Wildlife possess heightened senses and will avoid or flee areas with unfamiliar scents and sounds. Driving wildlife away prevents visitors from having the high quality experience they expect.

  • Pets and comfort animals are prohibited at the refuge in order to minimize disturbance (sight, smell, sound) to wildlife. This is effective as soon as visitors arrive on the entrance road and includes the parking areas. Pets may not be walked in the parking lot to relieve themselves. They may not be left in vehicles. They are prohibited from being here. There are many pet-friendly places to visit in the area, but this is not one of them!
  • Fully trained service animals are welcome if they are in service and accompanying the person for whom the service is performed. They must be leashed and controlled at all times. 
Bicycling and Running

Refuge trails are for walking only. Activities such as bicycling and running or jogging are not permitted on refuge trails to minimize impact on wildlife and lessen disturbance to other visitors. Bicyclists arriving on the road are welcome, and there is a bicycle rack available across from the Norm Dicks Visitor Center near the flagpole.

Photography and Props
  • Wildlife and nature photography is welcomed and encouraged at the refuge as long as visitors stay on designated trails.
  • Portrait photography is permitted, BUT photographers must only stay on trails open to visitors and cannot block others' access.
  • The use of props (for example: stools, chairs, costumes, wagons, balloons, ribbons, confetti, dolls, stuffed animals, etc.), tents, artificial lights, and reflectors are not permitted on refuge trails and parking areas.
  • Repeated trespassing into closed areas will result in violations.
  • Commercial videographers must apply in advance for a special use permit.
  • Drones may not be used.
Motorized and Non-Motorized Wheeled Recreational Equipment
  • The only wheeled equipment permitted on refuge trails includes wheelchairs and baby strollers.
  • Scooters, skateboards, and other recreational wheeled items are not permitted.
  • Motorized (gas and electric) recreational equipment is not permitted (e.g., electric bikes, scooters, segways, etc.).
Unmanned Aerial Systems (Drones)

The launching, landing, or operating of any aircraft which includes unmanned aircraft (drones) from or on lands and waters administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is prohibited (50 CFR 27.34).


Removing plants, fungi, animals, or minerals from the refuge is not permitted (50 CFR 27.21).

Wildlife Handling

Do not pick up any wildlife under any circumstances. Young animals may appear to be abandoned; but more likely the parents are nearby but disturbed by your presence. Please report animals in distress to refuge staff, who will take appropriate action.

Audio Devices

Human activities on a refuge must be compatible with the primary purposes of the refuge. Attempting to call in a species using tapes or cell phones is not permitted on national wildlife refuges. There are federal regulations that prohibit the use of radios and playback audios to entice or elicit a response from birds in the wild: 50 CFR 27.51 prohibits disturbing and attempting to disturb wildlife on any National Wildlife Refuge and 50 CFR 27.72 prohibits "the operation or use of audio devices including radios, recording and playback devices, loudspeakers...so as to cause unreasonable disturbance to others in the vicinity."

Feeding Wildlife

Keep wildlife wild! There is no need to feed wildlife at the refuge - there are plenty of natural foods for them to eat. Feeding wildlife can disrupt the natural behavior of wild animals. Feeding wildlife can not only create safety issues with the public and habituate them to humans, but it can also cause health issues for wildlife. Many foods consumed by humans are not healthy for wild animal species. Feeding wildlife pet store items and bird seeds is also prohibited. Squirrels are bird nest predators, so feeding them can lead to reducing the number of birds at the refuge. Don't feed them, or any other wildlife, here!

Personal Watercraft

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge does not provide launch sites along the trails and roads to place boat, canoe, kayak, and other float equipment into the water (50 CFR 26.34). The closest boat launch is Luhr's Landing (4949 D Milluhr Rd. NE, Olympia, WA 98516). Personal watercraft within the Nisqually River Delta are limited to 5 mph to minimize wildlife disturbance and habitat damage. The Sanctuary area ( between Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk and Nisqually River) is closed to all boating. The Research Natural Area is closed to all boats from October 1 through March 31. Please follow and obey refuge signs.

Fishing and Hunting

The refuge provides fishing and hunting opportunities in the Nisqually Delta; however, there are no walk-in or launch sites from refuge roads and trails. Access to hunting and fishing areas are by boat only. The closest boat launch is Luhr's Landing (4949 D Milluhr Rd. NE, Olympia, WA 98516). Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife rules and regulations apply here for both fishing and hunting. Please refer to the hunting and fishing pages of the refuge and state's websites. It is the responsibility of hunter and anglers to fully understand and abide by the regulations.