Facility Rules and Policies

Help us protect habitat and keep both you and our wildlife safe by following all rules and policies during your visit. Keep in mind that unless explicitly posted as a nature trail, public road, parking lot, or building, all areas of the refuge are closed to public entry.If you can't find information about your desired activity, please contact us!


The refuge is open daily from dawn to dusk. The Visitor Center is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (closed Mondays and federal holidays). Wildlife Drive and some trails may be closed periodically or seasonally due to inclement weather or refuge activities. Hunt permit holders should consult refuge hunting regulations for hours during hunt days.


Visitors must stay on designated roads and trails. Venturing off of roads and trails open to the public is prohibited. Trails are limited to foot traffic only. Public areas are noted on the Wildlife Drive map and the Blackwater General Brochure. There is a fee for access to Wildlife Drive, and the fee schedule can be found below. The speed limit on refuge-owned roads is 15 MPH unless otherwise noted.

Fee schedule for Wildlife Drive

A daily permit is required for all visitors to the Wildlife Drive unless they possess an annual pass, lifetime pass, or current Duck Stamp.  Permits are obtained at the self-service kiosk at the start of the Wildlife Drive (CASH or CHECK ONLY).

Private vehicle - $3.00 (per vehicle)
Pedestrian, Bicyclist - $1.00 (per person age 16 or older)
Commercial Van or Bus
Up to 20 passengers - $50.00
21 or more passengers - $100.00

Federal Entrance Passes are available at the Visitor Center (CASH or CHECK ONLY).

  • Refuge-specific pass (Blackwater only) - $12.00/one year
  • Federal Duck Stamp - $25.00/one year (July through June)
  • Interagency (America the Beautiful) Annual Pass - $80.00/one year
  • Interagency Senior Annual Pass (62 and older) - $20.00/one year 
  • Interagency Senior Lifetime Pass (62 and older) - $80.00/life
  • Interagency Military Pass (Active duty and Veterans) - FREE/one year
  • Interagency Access Pass (for the blind and permanently disabled) - FREE/life
  • Every Kid Outdoors 4th Grade Pass - FREE for 4th Graders who turn in a voucher that can be completed at the EKO website.
Commercial Activities

Commercial guide services and tours on the refuge must be authorized through the issuance of a Special Use Permits (SUP).  A “commercial use” is when any person, group or organization makes or attempts to make a profit, receive money/remuneration, amortize equipment, or obtain goods or services as compensation from participants in activities occurring on public lands.  Non-profit organizations that do not receive funds beyond that which covers the group’s basic costs (e.g., meals and transportation costs) are not considered commercial; however, non-profit status does not disqualify consideration of the use as commercial if any profit is made from the visit.

To apply for a SUP, please fill out this application form and return to Ray Paterra, Visitor Services Manager.


Pets are not allowed on the refuge outside of your vehicle, even on a leash. However, pets may be walked on a leash no more than 6-feet in length in the area immediately surrounding the Visitor Center. Pets may ride in your vehicle on Wildlife Drive.

Note that service animals, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, are permitted on the refuge. Service dogs must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times! Please pick up after them.

Collecting and disturbing

Collecting, disturbing or destroying plants, animals or parts thereof is prohibited unless specifically authorized under a Special Use Permit. For details see 50 CFR 18-99 parts 27 and 32

Collecting or disturbing any artifacts you may find is prohibited.

Launching of watercraft

Watercraft may only be launched at the Blackwater River soft launch on Rt. 335, and the launch directly adjacent to the Little Blackwater River Bridge on Key Wallace Drive. Launching from any other refuge shoreline, including Wildlife Drive, is prohibited. For all options in the area, please visit our Boating Pages. There are some special launching provisions during the Waterfowl Hunt.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (such as drones)

Strictly prohibited to maintain public health and safety and to protect refuge resources.  Launching, landing or operating unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within the boundaries of Blackwater NWR is prohibited.

Camping and fires (of any kind)

Prohibited on the refuge.


Fishing from most refuge shoreline, including Wildlife Drive, is prohibited.  Fishing is allowed from watercraft in refuge waters, and from the shoreline directly adjacent to the causeway over the Little Blackwater River on Key Wallace Drive. State of Maryland fishing and crabbing regulations apply. For more information, visit our Fishing Page.

Hunting and firearms

Firearm use is allowed by refuge hunt permit holders during refuge hunts only. Hunting information and dates can be found on our Hunting Pages. Firearms are prohibited in all federal buildings unless specifically authorized.

Sick or Injured Wildlife

While Blackwater NWR protects and manages habitat for wildlife species, the refuge does not rehabilitate wildlife, nor should Blackwater NWR be considered a drop-off location for sick or injured wildlife. The refuge does not have facilities to house captive wildlife, nor does staff have veterinary training. For general information, please visit the Maryland DNR Sick and Injured Wildlife web page. If seeking information for injured migratory birds please visit Tri-State Bird Rescue or call them at 302-737-9543.