John Hay National Wildlife Refuge

The John Hay Refuge was established in 1987 when the Service acquired the former summer estate of John Hay, from his daughter-in-law, Alice Hay. John Hay was a politician and statesman, best known as the personal secretary to Abraham Lincoln, Ambassador to Great Britain, and Secretary of State. Mrs. Hay wanted the estate to be set aside “… for public use as an inviolate sanctuary for migratory birds, as a migratory bird and wildlife reservation…” The Refuge originally comprised 164 acres including the family residence, a gate house, lake shore house, and garage. In 2008, the Service transferred 84 acres, including all the buildings to The Fells, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the Hay Family Estate. The remaining 80-acre refuge, when combined with The Fells property, includes the longest stretch of undeveloped shoreline on Lake Sunapee. There is a 0.9-mile interpretive hiking trail created in honor of John Hay’s grandson, also John Hay, who was a well-known naturalist in New England. Habitats include an expansive mature forest, a small meadow, shoreline on Lake Sunapee, and Minute Island, just off shore.

Location and Contact Information

      Get Involved


      Prospective volunteers are encouraged to contact Steve Agius at or 802-962-5240 ext 112. There are a number of opportunities at the refuge including invasive plant control, baseline inventories such as vernal pools, forest understory plants, and trail maintenance. Time commitments can range for a single day to long term, depending on area of interest and availability.

      Friends Group

      The Fells, now owners of the John Hay Estate adjacent to the refuge is the friends group. In addition to their own property, they provide information to refuge visitors and work with staff on issues of mutual interest (e.g. long-term parking options). More information is available on their website They may be contacted by email ( or phone 603-763-4789 for more information.