Facility Rules and Policies

Welcome to your 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.

Learn more about national wildlife refuge
. Discover new places to hunt, fish, take pictures, watch wildlife, walk, and canoe. Enjoy spending time outdoors alone or with friends and family. For more information, please contact the refuge visitor center at 618-997-3344 ext. 1

To ensure your safety and protect wildlife and habitat, please be aware of these regulations.

General Restrictions

We prohibit

  • All types of motorized vehicles on all refuge land (including on frozen bodies of water) except on designated parking areas, access roads and public roads
  • Use of any motorized or mechanical equipment in the wilderness area wilderness area
    Wilderness areas are places untamed by humans. The Wilderness Act of 1964 allows Congress to designate wilderness areas for protection to ensure that America's pristine wild lands will not disappear. Wilderness areas can be part of national wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests or…

    Learn more about wilderness area
  • Parking beyond vehicle control barriers or on grass or other vegetation
  • Target practice or any non-hunting discharge of firearms is prohibited
  • Use or possession of fireworks or explosives is not allowed on the refuge.
  • Abandoning, discarding or otherwise leaving any personal property. All property brought onto a refuge must be removed at the end of each day. This includes all common items like vehicles, boats, decoys, trail cameras, blind, photography equipment, portable stands, climbing sticks, ice fishing shelters and trash.
  • Destructing, defacing, disturbing or unauthorized removal of any natural object, artifact, cultural resource or government property
  • We prohibit the use of metal detectors
  • Searching for removal of any natural items such as antlers, plants, historic, and archaeological features are protected by Federal law
  • Introducing, liberating or placing plants or animals or their parts taken elsewhere on refuge lands or waters. (special use permit is required)
  • Disposing of animal carcasses, trash, refuse, rocks, wood or other debris
  • Cutting, mowing, sawing, digging, collecting, injuring or removing vegetation
  • Launching, landing or disturbing of wildlife by aircraft (drones) on the refuge. This includes for recreational or commercial purposes.
  • Commercial enterprise without a special use permit
  • Group events are prohibited (special use permit is required)
  • Use or possession of any illegal drug or drug paraphernalia is prohibited

For management purposes, the lands within the refuge have been divided into an open area and a restricted area. The restricted area contains 21,000 acres and is only open to public hunting by special permit. The open area contains 23,000 acres where public hunting is permitted in accordance with state hunting seasons.

Hunting

All hunters are required to carry a signed refuge general hunt permit stating that they have read and understand the refuge hunting regulations.

Hunting for big game, upland game, furbearers, waterfowl and migratory birds is permitted. Special hunts are offered for youth, disabled and senior hunters. Contact the visitor center for more information on how to apply for special hunting permits at 618-997-3344 ext 1. To ensure your safety and enjoyment while hunting on the refuge, please take the time to become familiar with the refuge specific regulations.

Refuge-specific Hunting Regulations

  • Hunting is prohibited within 50 yards of all designated public use facilities areas, picnic areas, campgrounds, marinas, boat ramps, public roads and established hiking trails listed in the refuge trail brochure
  • State season and bag limits apply unless otherwise specified
  • Only Illinois legal game species may be taken in the open area of the refuge during the state season. All other animals are protected.
  • Possession and use of alcoholic beverages while hunting is prohibited
  • Hunting is prohibited in areas closed to hunting as indicated on the accompanying map or as otherwise posted
  • Marking trails with paint, flagging, reflectors, tacks or other manmade materials is prohibited
  • The construction of permanent hunting blinds is prohibited
  • Youth hunters under the age of 16 must be supervised by an adult no less than 21 years old and must remain in sight and normal voice contact with the adult. Hunters born on or after January 1, 1980, must show proof that they have successfully completed a hunter education course

Migratory Game Bird Hunting

Hunters may hunt migratory birds on designated open areas of the refuge in accordance with state regulations, subject to the following conditions:

  • Waterfowl hunting is not allowed in the restricted use area of Crab Orchard Lake
  • Waterfowl hunting blinds must be a minimum of 200 yards apart
  • Boat blinds must be anchored on shore or anchored a minimum of 200 yards away from any shoreline
  • Waterfowl hunters may also hunt on the eastern shoreline in Grassy Bay

Upland Game Hunting

Hunters may hunt upland game on designated areas of the refuge in accordance with State regulations, subject to the following conditions:

  • The use of rifles or handguns with ammunition larger than .22 caliber rimfire are prohibited
  • The use of black powder firearms up to, and including, .40 caliber are permitted
  • Hunters must possess and use only nontoxic shot
  • The use of .22 and .17 caliber rimfire lead ammunition for the taking of small game and furbearers is allowed during state season
  • Upland game hunting is prohibited within 50 yards of all designated public use facilities, including, but not limited to parking areas, picnic areas, campgrounds, marinas, boat ramps, public roads and established hiking trails listed in the refuge trails brochure

Big Game Hunting

Hunters may hunt white-tailed deer and turkey on designated areas of the refuge in accordance with state regulations subject to the following conditions:

  • Restricted use area deer and turkey hunters are required to check in at the visitor center prior to hunting
  • Handguns for the taking of deer in the restricted use area are prohibited
  • Deer drives for the taking or attempting to take deer are prohibited
  • We prohibit firearm deer hunting on refuge lands west of Division Street and east of Blue Heron Campground and on all refuge land north of Illinois State Route 13 and in the area north of Crab Orchard Lake emergency spillway and west of Crab Orchard Lake. (See Map)
  • Turkey hunters may only use and possess non-toxic lead-free shot
  • Big game hunters may place stands or blinds with owners identification attached in the hunting area 24 hours prior to their hunt. Stands left vacant for over 24 hours or stands without owner identification are subject to removal.

Crab Orchard Restricted Area Hunts

Successful drawn hunters are allowed to hunt in the special hunt area. This is a controlled hunt with a lottery administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. For more information about restricted area hunts, please call the visitor center at 618-997-3344 ext 1.

Crab Orchard Unexploded Ordinance Safety Information

All hunters hunting within the restricted area are required to review the unexploded ordinance safety information.

Deer Hunts

Crab Orchard Firearm Hunt

Successful drawn hunters are allowed to hunt in the special hunt area. This is a controlled hunt with a lottery administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. For more information about the youth and disabled hunt please call the refuge visitor center 618-997-3344 ext 1.

All successful hunters must report their harvest.

Crab 1 Deer Hunt (First Firearm Deer Season)

Crab 2 Deer Hunt (Second Firearm Deer Season)

Crab Orchard Archery Deer Hunt

Youth and Disabled Hunt

Successful drawn hunters are allowed to hunt in the special hunt area. This is a controlled hunt with a lottery administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. For more information about the youth and disabled hunt please call the refuge visitor center 618-997-3344 ext 1.

Crab Orchard Spring and Fall Turkey Hunt

Successful drawn hunters are allowed to hunt in the special hunt area. This is a controlled hunt with a lottery administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. For more information about the restricted area hunts please call the refuge visitor center 618-997-3344 ext 1.

Fishing

Fishing is a popular visitor pastime on the refuge. More than 9,000 acres of water are impounded by three man-made reservoirs and several small ponds. The larger lakes, Crab Orchard, Little Grassy and Devils Kitchen, are available for fishing from a boat on a year round basis.

There are also several areas developed for bank fishing with accessible fishing piers, walkways and fish attractors. Anglers enjoy fishing for largemouth bass, crappie and channel catfish to name just a few of the available species. Sport fishing is permitted throughout the refuge in accordance with all applicable state regulations. To ensure your safety and enjoyment while fishing on the refuge, please take the time to become familiar with the refuge specific regulations. Organized fishing contests require a special use permit. Contact the visitor center for instructions on how to apply at 618-997-3344 ext 1.

Refuge-specific Fishing Regulations - All Refuge Waters

  • Organizers of all fishing events must possess a refuge issued permit. To obtain permit call 618-997-3344 ext. 334.
  • Anglers may not submerge any pole or similar object to take or locate any fish
  • Using jugs or flotation devices that have previously contained any petroleum based or toxic substances is prohibited
  • Anglers may not fish within 250 yards of an occupied waterfowl hunting blind

Crab Orchard Lake

West of Wolf Creek Road
  • Fishing from boats is permitted day and night year round
  • Tot lines/jugs must be removed from legal sunrise until legal sunset from the Friday immediately prior to Memorial Day through Labor Day
East of Wolf Creek Road
  • Fishing from boats is permitted only from March 1 through October 15
  • Fishing from the bank is permitted year round, but only at the Wolf Creek and Route 148 causeways
Little Grassy and Devils Kitchen Lakes
  • The use of trot lines or jugs are prohibited
  • Use of boat motors of more that 10 horsepower is prohibited
  • Gas motors are prohibited in the southeastern section of Devils Kitchen Lake
Designated Ponds within the Restricted Area
  • On A-41 and Bluegill Ponds fishing is permitted from sunrise to sunset from March 1 through October 15
  • On Visitors and Honkers Corner Ponds fishing is permitted from sunrise to sunset year round
  • Non gas power boats are permitted 

Fishing Events

Competitive fishing requires a special use permit issued by the refuge manager. Organizers of fishing events with fewer than 20 boats must obtain a fish-off permit.

Trapping

Trapping on the refuge requires a special use permit issued by the refuge manager. Trapping is only used as a tool to manage wildlife. Recreational trapping is prohibited.

Refuge-specific Regulations

Bicycles

Bicycling is permitted only on roads open to motorized vehicles and trails established especially for bicycles

Camping

We allow camping only in established campgrounds and group camps subject to the following conditions:

We define “camping” as: Erecting a tent or shelter of natural or synthetic material, preparing a sleeping bag or other bedding material or parking of a motor vehicle for the apparent purpose of overnight occupancy.

We prohibit camping at any one campground for a period longer than 14 days during any 16 day consecutive period. After 14 days, you must remove all personal property and equipment form the campground for a minimum of 48 hours.

Campfires

Campfires are allowed only in designated picnicking and camping areas where controlled structures are provided subject to the following conditions:

You may only use dead wood on the ground or materials brought into the refuge such as charcoal or firewood. You must remove any unused firewood brought into the refuge upon departure due to the threat of invasive insects.

We prohibit burning or attempting to burn any nonflammable materials or any materials that may produce toxic fumes or leave hazardous waste. These materials include, but are not limited to, metal cans, plastic containers, glass, fiberglass, treated wood products, wood containing nails or staples, wire, flotation materials or other refuse.

Collecting Wild Foods

Fruits, nuts, berries and fruiting bodies of mushrooms may be gathered by hand for personal use for consumption. We limit the amount you may collect to 1 gallon by volume per person, per day. Commercial use of these products are prohibited.

Domestic Animals

We allow dogs and other domestic animals on the refuge subject to the following conditions:

  • We prohibit dogs disturbing or endangering wildlife or people while on the refuge
  • We prohibit allowing dogs to roam
  • All dogs must be on a leash when on hiking trails or other areas as posted
  • We allow working a dog in refuge waters by tossing a retrieval dummy or other object for out-and-back exercise
  • We encourage the use of dogs for hunting, but we prohibit field trials and commercial / professional dog training
  • Owners / handlers of dogs are responsible for disposal of dog droppings in refuge public use concentration areas such as trails, campgrounds, beaches and boat landings
  • We allow horseback riding on public roads, the River to River and Pleasant Hill Trails. Horseback riding is prohibited on the River to River and Pleasant Hill Trails from November 1 to April 30.
  • We prohibit all other domestic animals on the refuge unless confined in a vehicle, boat, trailer, kennel or other container

Rock Climbing

Rappelling, free-style and technical rock climbing is prohibited.

Special Events

A special use permit is required for all group events on the refuge.

Swimming

We allow swimming on Crab Orchard Lake and Little Grassy Lake subject to the following conditions:

  • Swimming is prohibited in the restricted areas of Crab Orchard Lake
  • Swimming is prohibited in the marina areas, within 100 feet of boat ramps, spillways, causeways and dams on Crab Orchard and Little Grassy Lakes
  • Swimming is prohibited in Devils Kitchen Lake
  • Public nudity and SCUBA diving are prohibited

Trapping

  • Trapping on the refuge requires a special use permit issued by the refuge manager. Trapping is only used as a tool to manage wildlife. Recreational trapping is prohibited.

Watercraft

We allow the use of watercraft of all types and means on waters of the refuge as governed by state regulations subject to the following conditions:

  • We restrict motorboats on all refuge waters to slow speeds leaving “no wake” within 150 feet (45 meters) of any shoreline, swimming area, marina entrance, boat ramp, causeway tunnel and areas indicated on the lake zoning map in the refuge fishing brochure
  • We prohibit the use of boat motors of more than 10 horsepower on Devils Kitchen and Little Grassy Lakes
  • We prohibit watercraft east of Wolf Creek Causeway on Crab Orchard Lake from October 16 to February 28
  • We prohibit the use of gas-powered motors in the southeastern section of Devils Kitchen Lake (consult lake zoning map in the refuge recreation brochure)

Water-skiing

  • We allow water-skiing on the main body of Crab Orchard Lake west of Highway 148
  • We prohibit water-skiing in Grassy Bay on Crab Orchard Lake (consult lake zoning map in the refuge recreation brochure)
Wilderness Area
  • The 4,050 acre Crab Orchard wilderness area wilderness area
    Wilderness areas are places untamed by humans. The Wilderness Act of 1964 allows Congress to designate wilderness areas for protection to ensure that America's pristine wild lands will not disappear. Wilderness areas can be part of national wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests or…

    Learn more about wilderness area
    is located just south of Devils Kitchen and Little Grassy Lakes. 
  • This area has been set aside for public use and enjoyment and is managed by special regulations to minimize human impact. 

  • Campfires, camping, motorized and mechanical vehicles and equipment are prohibited. 

  • The wilderness area provides a pristine environment for hikers, birdwatchers, anglers and hunters alike. 

  • Backpackers planning to visit the wilderness area may camp at Giant city State Park, the Shawnee National Forest or one of the refuge campgrounds. 

  • Horseback riding is only permitted on the River to River Trail from May-October.