Visitors urged to avoid sick or dead waterfowl

DO NOT approach or touch birds who may appear to be dead, sick or are exhibiting abnormal behavior. There are suspected cases of avian cholera and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) among birds at this site. We are continuing to monitor the situation. While the risk of humans contracting HPAI is low, it is not zero, so do not handle sick or dead birds. (More information about avian influenza.) Refuge staff and partners are collecting dead birds and burying them to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible bacteria and virus. Learn more about the suspected outbreak at the refuge and across Southwest Idaho.

Visit Us

National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings. With a nearly 9,000-acre lake and more than 10 miles of trails, refuge visitors can easily find an adventure for their experience level. As you visit this wildlife home, be sure to slow down to watch wildlife and look for signs of wildlife like tracks, scat, and nests. Whether you come to fish; to boat or swim in Lake Lowell; to hike, bird, hunt, or picnic; or to watch a sunset in the nearby uplands, there are many opportunities to connect with nature during your visit.

Choose a topic to learn more about ways to have a memorable and safe experience at Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge.

Driving Directions

Driving directions to the refuge visitor center

  • Take Exit 33 off of Interstate 84. 

  • After exiting the freeway, turn right (west) onto Highway 55/Karcher Road. 

  • Follow Karcher Road about 3.5 miles to Lake Avenue. 

  • Turn left onto Lake Avenue and drive about 2.5 miles to the intersection with Roosevelt Avenue. 

  • Turn right onto Roosevelt Avenue. 

  • At Indiana Avenue at the top of the hill, turn left into the refuge and follow the road to the visitor center 

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Fees

There is no charge to visit.

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Restrooms

Restrooms are available inside the refuge visitor center. Vault toilets are available at the Lower Dam Recreation Area, the boat launch at the west end of the Upper Dam, and at Gotts Point. Restrooms are also available in Canyon County’s Lake Lowell Park across from the east end of the Upper Dam. 

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Points of Interest

Let our staff and volunteers at the refuge visitor center help you plan your visit! The visitor center is a great starting point for visitors to become more familiar with the refuge and the wildlife that live here. Browse nature and wildlife exhibits, view wildlife from the observation room, enjoy hands-on activities in the KidSpace area, borrow binoculars for some wildlife watching, and pick up a refuge brochure and map. While there, also visit the Grebe’s Nest Nature Store for water bottles, field guides, and various other educational items. Purchases support the Friends of Deer Flat. 

Some other points of interest include:  

  • Hiking trails: Experience Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge from different perspectives and wander through different habitats on our over 10 miles of hiking trails

  • Fishing access points: Cast a line, enjoy the breeze, listen to the waves and the wildlife and maybe even catch a fish! Popular fishing spots include the accessible fishing dock at the west end of the Upper Dam and from shore at Gotts Point or along the Upper and Lower Dams. 

  • Snake River Islands Unit driving tour: Take a scenic drive along the Snake River to see some of the islands in the refuge’s Snake River Islands Unit. Link 

  • Lower Dam Recreation Area: Visit the Lower Dam Recreation Area or the east end of the Upper Dam to enjoy picnicking, barbecues, swimming, boating and more with family and friends. This area is open annually from April 15 through September 30. If you’re planning an event, please contact deerflat@fws.gov to find out about event rules and whether you need a free special use permit. 

  • Viewing platform: Enjoy views of almost the entire Lake Lowell Unit from the viewing platform along the Observation Hill Trail. Hike to the platform through sagebrush sagebrush
    The western United States’ sagebrush country encompasses over 175 million acres of public and private lands. The sagebrush landscape provides many benefits to our rural economies and communities, and it serves as crucial habitat for a diversity of wildlife, including the iconic greater sage-grouse and over 350 other species.

    Learn more about sagebrush
    uplands with views of the lake and its forested edge. Or request a permit to drive to the platform.  

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What to do

If you have 15 minutes

  • Explore the visitor center. 

If you have one hour

  • Explore the visitor center. 

  • Take a short hike on the Centennial Trail near the visitor center.  

  • Stop at the interpretive panels to learn about the history of the refuge and reservoir.  

  • Enjoy bird watching from the bird blind.  

  • Take in views of the lake and sagebrush uplands from the viewing platform.  

  • Is Fido begging you for a walk? Bring him/her along on your refuge visit to enjoy the sights, sounds - and of course smells - of nature!! Dogs must be on a leash 6 feet long or less. Pet waste must be bagged and removed. Find out about how to be a BARK Ranger!

  • Paddle the lake in your canoe or kayak. 

  • Enjoy a sunrise or sunset from the Observation Hill or Gotts Point trails

  • Enjoy a picnic at the visitor center or the Lower Dam Recreation Area. Please remember to bring your litter home with you. 

  • Swimming is allowed April 15 to September 30. The rest of the year, the lake is reserved for swimming wildlife! There are designated swimming beaches at the East Upper Dam boat launch and at the Lower Dam Recreation Area.

  • Fish from the accessible fishing dock at the west end of the Upper Dam from early April through early to mid-October or from any open shoreline throughout the year.  

If you have half a day or more. 

  • Explore the visitor center. 

  • Choose a driving tour of the Lake Lowell or the Snake River Islands unit. 

  • Hike a longer refuge trail

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Know Before You Go

The refuge is a fun and safe place to visit! Here are some suggestions to make your visit more enjoyable: 

  • Hours and access

    • The Refuge is open daily during daylight hours. 

    • The Visitor Center is typically open weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., except on Federal holidays. Occasionally these hours may shift if staff are in the field or volunteers are unavailable. 

    • An accessible fishing dock is available on the west end of the Upper Dam. The Centennial Trail is an accessible interpretive trail from the Visitor Center to and across the Upper Dam. Access difficulty elsewhere varies. Disabled visitors should contact deerflat@fws.gov or 208-467-9278 for suggestions about visiting safely. 

    • Access is allowed through designated accesses only. 

  • While the refuge belongs to all of us, many types of wildlife call it home. Please respect the wildlife, wildlife habitat and other visitors during your visit. Regulations are in place to reduce disturbance to wildlife and habitat and to provide a positive experience for visitors. Be safe and enjoy your visit! 

  • Take plenty of photos to share with your family and friends.

  • Check the Friends of Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge weather station for current weather conditions.

  • You may want to bring the following with you: 
    • Refuge map - Maps are available at the refuge visitor center or online for download. 

    • Water - No potable water is available on the trails. Bring a reusable bottle to fill at the filling station inside the visitor center during open hours. 

    • Protective clothing - Weather can change quickly, summer sun can be intense and winter winds can make you feel even colder. 

    • Sunscreen 

    • Insect repellent to protect against mosquitoes and ticks. 

    • Plan to pack out what you pack in. Trash receptacles are only available at a few access points, and we ask that you practice Leave No Trace ethics while visiting the refuge. 

    • Bringing your dog? Bring a leash (6 feet long or less) and bags for packing out dog waste. And learn about pet regulations

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Visitor Tips

You can discover hundreds of species of birds, numerous plants, mammals, reptiles and insects during your visit. Each season brings different opportunities to experience nearby nature. Every visit can bring a new discovery. Be aware that access points are busier on evenings and weekends. 

Wildlife viewing tips 

  • Wildlife is generally most active in the morning or the evening.  

  • There is a wildlife sighting board outside the visitor center.  

  • Before you visit, check iNaturalist and eBird for recent sightings. 

  • If driving, stay in your car. It makes an excellent viewing blind. 

  • If walking, move slowly and quietly to avoid scaring wildlife. 

  • Stay on maintained trails and do not approach wildlife too closely. 

  • Use binoculars or a spotting scope to view animals “up close” without disturbing them. Binoculars are available to borrow at the visitor center during open hours; they just need to be returned by the close of business. 

  • Sit quietly and wait patiently. Although wildlife may disappear when you arrive, if you are quiet and still they will often return shortly. 

  • Bring a field guide to help you identify the species you see. Consult the refuge bird list, mammal list, and other wildlife lists to find out what to expect. 

  • Look for signs that wildlife has been there before you. You might see tracks, scat (animal poop!) or chewed leaves or branches. 

  • Leave pets at home. Pets will scare wildlife before you get a chance to see it. 

Where to go 

  • View a variety of upland, riparian riparian
    Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.

    Learn more about riparian
    , and lake wildlife from the Visitor Center observation room.  

  • Hike the East Dike Trail, which travels through a variety of habitats that are home to a variety of wildlife. 

  • Hike the portion of the Centennial Trail that crosses the Upper Dam to see birds like western and Clark’s grebes, great blue herons, great egrets, Canada geese, and a variety of duck species. 

  • Hike any refuge trail to see a variety of wildlife at any time of year. 

  • For a driving tour, take the 29.5-mile Lake Lowell Unit Bird Tour or the 47-mile Snake River Islands Unit Bird Tour. Both tours start and end at the east end of the Upper Dam. You can get more information at the visitor center. 

When to visit 

  • April to May is a great time to spot migrating songbirds as they return from their wintering grounds as well as a variety of wildflowers. 

  • June through September is perfect for picnicking, swimming and boating, and to enjoy dancing and diving grebes. Watch closely and in mid to late summer you may see chicks riding on their parents’ backs. 

  • All summer, watch for dragonflies zooming about like fighter pilots and butterflies flapping slowly from flower to flower. Look closely and you may be surprised at the number and variety of other insects you discover. Wildflowers are less common in summer, but that just adds to the challenge. Make a list of what you see. 

  • July through October, watch for large flocks of shorebirds that gather for the buffet of invertebrates in the mudflats on the east end of the lake when water conditions are right. (To see the mudflats, walk west from the Tio Lane end of the Kingfisher Trail.) 

  • September-October and April-May are typically not too hot and not too cold and therefore a good time to enjoy most activities. 

  • In October, take a hike to admire the fall colors of the trees that ring Lake Lowell. 

  • In October through January, watch and listen for large flocks of ducks and geese wintering at Lake Lowell or resting and fattening up during a migration stopover. 

  • Birding is great throughout the year! Check iNaturalist and eBird for recent sightings.  

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Maps

Map of Lake Lowell Unit

The Lake Lowell Unit has many facilities and access points. Click on "Image Details" below map for larger version of map.

Maps of Snake River Islands Units

The 104 Refuge Islands in the Snake River are distributed from the Canyon-Ada County line in Idaho to Farewell Bend in Oregon. Boat ramps to access these islands are available at the upstream to downstream locations listed below.

  • Celebration Park, ID. Follow signs from Highway 45
  • Walter's Ferry, ID. Where Highway 45 crosses the river. Click on "Image Details" below map for larger version of map.
  • Bernard's Ferry, ID. About 5 miles west of Walter's Ferry on Highway 78
  • Marsing, ID. Where Highway 55 crosses the river. Click on "Image Details" below map for larger version of map.
  • Homedale, ID. About a half mile west of Highway 95. Click on "Image Details" below map for larger version of map.
  • Adrian Bridge, OR. Unimproved ramp about one mile east of Highway 201
  • Fort Boise, ID. Inside the Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area. Click on "Image Details" below map for larger version of map.
  • Nyssa, OR. Click on "Image Details" below map for larger version of map.
  • Ontario State Park, OR. At the Highway 201 exit off of I-84
  • Centennial Park, Payette, IDClick on "Image Details" below map for larger version of map.
  • Roberts Landing, ID. Follow signs off of Highway 95. Click on "Image Details" below map for larger version of map.
  • Weiser, ID. Unimproved ramp about one mile west of Highway 95 on River Road
  • Farewell Bend State Park, OR. Follow signs off of I-84. Click on "Image Details" below map for larger version of map.

Activities

There are many ways to enjoy your refuge! Visitors can enjoy more than 10 miles of trails on foot or by bicycle or horseback, find a diversity of birds and other wildlife to watch or photograph, fish from shore or a boat. hunt in select areas of the refuge, enjoy a family picnic, go swimming or participate in free educational programs about nature. For more information, please call 208-467-9278 or email deerflat@fws.gov. Be safe, have fun, and learn something new about your wild neighbors.

Trails

Nature Trail 

A self-guided loop around the visitor center. Hike through restored sagebrush sagebrush
The western United States’ sagebrush country encompasses over 175 million acres of public and private lands. The sagebrush landscape provides many benefits to our rural economies and communities, and it serves as crucial habitat for a diversity of wildlife, including the iconic greater sage-grouse and over 350 other species.

Learn more about sagebrush
uplands and past the lakeshore lined with cottonwoods. Trail guides available at the trailhead or in the visitor center during open hours.  

Open Season: Open year round. Part of the trail may be closed from March 15 to August 1 to reduce disturbance to osprey nesting on the nearby nesting platform. Off-trail hiking is allowed August 1 to January 31. To protect nesting birds, please stay on trail the rest of the year. 

Length: 0.5 mile loop 

Location of trail: North Side Recreation Area 

Surface: Natural surface 

Difficulty: Easy 

Centennial Trail 

Learn about the history of the refuge and the reservoir on this historical interpretive trail that winds through sagebrush uplands to an observation platform overlooking ponds and wetlands. Then continues across the historic Upper Dam with views of Lake Lowell, as well as the Owyhee mountains to the south and the Boise Front mountains to the northeast.  

Near the west end of the trail there is a side trail to a wildlife viewing blind. 

Trail access from the west at the visitor center and from the east at the east end of the Upper Dam.  

Open Season: Open year round. Off-trail hiking is allowed August 1 to January 31. To protect nesting birds, please stay on trail the rest of the year.   

Length: 1.2 miles one way 

Location of trail: North Side Recreation Area  

Surface: Concrete from the visitor center to the west end of the Upper Dam; asphalt (some stretches in disrepair) from west to east end of the dam.  

Difficulty: Easy, ADA compliant 

Observation Hill Trail 

Loop through sagebrush uplands to the top of a hill with a viewing platform and then along the forested edge of Lake Lowell. From the viewing platform, enjoy views of most of the Lake Lowell Unit of the Refuge, as well as the Treasure Valley and the Boise Front mountains to the north and northeast and the Owyhee mountains to the south.  

Trail access from the east at the visitor center and from the north at the parking lot at Indiana and Roosevelt Avenues. 

Open Season: Open year round. Off-trail hiking is allowed August 1 to January 31. To protect nesting birds, please stay on trail the rest of the year. 

Length:  3.25 mile loop; 0.6 mile trail connects parking lot at Indiana and Roosevelt Avenues to loop trail. 

Location of trail: North Side Recreation Area  

Surface: Natural surface, two-track road 

Difficulty: Some hills on the northern side of the loop. One bench along the trail and a bench on the adjacent viewing platform provide opportunities to rest and enjoy the view. 

East Dike Trail 

Trail with great birding opportunities that travels along wetland and forest areas to the New York Canal, the source of most of the water in Lake Lowell. 

Open Season: Open year round. Off-trail hiking is allowed all year. 

Length: 1.0 mile one way 

Location of trail: East Side Recreation Area 

Surface: Natural surface, two-track road 

Difficulty: Easy 

Kingfisher Trail 

Trail along the lake and forested edge through sagebrush uplands. Great birding opportunities, especially on the east end of the trail. Provides shoreline fishing access.  

Open Season: Open year round. Off-trail hiking is allowed all year.  

Length: 3.75 mile one way 

Location of trail: East Side Recreation Area 

Surface: Natural surface, two-track road 

Difficulty: Easy 

Gotts Point Trail 

Trail along the lake and forested edge through sagebrush uplands to a gate just north of Gotts Point. Provides shoreline fishing access.  

Open Season: Open February 1 to September 30. To protect wintering birds, area is closed to all entry from October 1 to January 31. Off-trail hiking whenever trail is open.  

Length: 0.75 mile one way 

Location of trail: East Side Recreation Area 

Surface: Natural surface, two-track road 

Difficulty: Easy 

Rules and Policies

We hope you enjoy the many educational and recreational opportunities available at the refuge. Because Deer Flat is a national wildlife refuge, regulations are in place to reduce disturbance to wildlife and habitat and to provide a positive experience for visitors. Be safe and enjoy your visit!

Locations

Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge
13751 Upper Embankment Road Nampa, ID 83686-8046
Driving Directions

Driving directions to the refuge visitor center 

  • Take Exit 33 off of Interstate 84. 

  • After exiting the freeway, turn right (west) onto Highway 55/Karcher Road. 

  • Follow Karcher Road about 3.5 miles to Lake Avenue. 

  • Turn left onto Lake Avenue and drive about 2.5 miles to the intersection with Roosevelt Avenue. 

  • Turn right onto Roosevelt Avenue. 

  • At Indiana Avenue at the top of the hill, turn left into the refuge and follow the road to the visitor center 

Hours
Visitor Center Hours
Monday-Friday
8am-4pm
Saturday
10am-4pm (2nd and 4th Saturdays of month; we hope to be open on all Saturdays soon.)
Lands, roads, and trails hours
Year-round
The Refuge is open during daylight hours.