Laws and Regulations


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. Closures will be listed on the Refuge Alert page.


Pets are not allowed on the refuge outside of your vehicle, even on a leash. However, pets may be walked on a leash in the area immediately surrounding the Visitor Center. Pets may ride in your vehicle on Wildlife Drive.


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 here. The speed limit on refuge-owned roads is 15 MPH unless otherwise noted.

Commercial Operations

Commercial guide services and tours on the refuge must be authorized through the issuance of a Special Use Permit (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.

Disturbing Nature

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 Page. There are some special launching provisions during the Waterfowl Hunt.

Unmanned aircraft (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.


Call 410-228-2677 or email us at .