About Us

John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge is one of five national wildlife refuges in Rhode Island. Established in 1973, the John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge at Pettaquamscutt Cove can be elusive to many human visitors. However, it is well-known to the migratory waterfowl that rely on it, including the largest population of black ducks in Rhode Island. In fact, the 550-acre refuge was established specifically to protect the population of black ducks that winter there. The refuge’s tidal salt marshes and forests attract many types of birds, including great egrets, herons, and several species of plovers and other shorebirds. It is also one of the few places in Rhode Island that is home to the Saltmarsh sparrow.

Many visitors are able to view the periphery of the refuge as they canoe or kayak the Narrow River. Although there is no refuge trail system, visitors can gain a vantage point of the refuge from the Middle Bridge pull-out and Sprague Bridge on Route 1A. Designated fishing access points also provide visitors an opportunity for shoreline fishing. Visitors can find parking across the street on town property.

Our Mission


Refuge Complex Vision

We developed this vision statement to provide a guiding philosophy and sense of purpose for the five refuge CCPs. It qualitatively describes the desired future character of the Refuge Complex through 2015 and beyond. We wrote in the present tense to provide a more motivating, positive, and compelling statement of purpose. It has guided, and will continue to guide, program emphases and priorities for each refuge in Rhode Island.

“The Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex protects a unique collection of thriving coastal sandplain, coastal maritime, and beach strand communities, and represents some of the last undeveloped seacoast in southern New England. Leading the way in the protection and restoration of coastal wetlands, shrubland, and grassland habitats, the Refuge Complex contributes to the longterm conservation of migratory and resident native wildlife populations, and the recovery of endangered and threatened species. These refuges offer research opportunities and provide an outstanding showcase of habitat management for other landowners.”

“The Refuge Complex is the premiere destination for visitors to coastal Rhode Island to engage in high quality, wildlife-dependent recreation. Hundreds of thousands of visitors are rewarded each year with inspiring vistas and exceptional opportunities to view wildlife in native habitats. Innovative environmental educational and interpretive programs motivate visitors to become better stewards of coastal resources.”

“Through partnerships and extensive outreach efforts, Refuge Complex staff are committed to accomplishing refuge goals and significantly contributing to the Mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System. This commitment will strengthen with the future, revitalizing the southern New England ecosystem for generations to come.” 

Refuge Purpose

Each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System is established to serve a statutory purpose that targets the conservation of native species dependent on its lands and waters.   All activities on those acres are reviewed for compatibility with this statutory purpose.

The purpose(s) of this unit are:

(1) To protect and enhance the populations of black duck and other waterfowl, geese, shorebirds, terns, wading birds, and other wildlife using the refuge;

(2) To provide for the conservation and management of fish and wildlife within the refuge;

(3) To fulfill international treaty obligations of the U.S. respecting fish and wildlife;

(4) To provide opportunities for scientific research, environmental education, and wildlife-oriented recreation. – 102 Stat. 3177, Nov. 5, 1988 (Public Law 100-610)

Other Facilities in this Complex