Laws and Regulations

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is a federal facility, and any person, or their property, is subject to federal law found in Title 50 of the US Code of Federal Regulations, and applicable state/municipal law.

  • The refuge is open to the public from sunrise to sunset. Exact closing times for the refuge can be found clearly marked on entrance signs and at the visitor center. **The gate will automatically shut at closing time. Once the gate locks, it will not open again until the next morning. Presence in the refuge after closing hours is punishable by fine and/or imprisonment (50 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) - 26.21 (a)).
  • A Pennsylvania fishing license is required in order to fish within designated areas of the refuge. All Pennsylvania fishing rules and regulations apply when fishing in the refuge. Rules and regulations regarding fishing can be found on our fishing page.
  • Hunting, and/or the collection of plants or animals is strictly prohibited, unless during the mentored archery deer hunt. 
  • Visitors are required to stay on designated trails at all times. Trail maps can be obtained in the visitor center, or on our maps page. Staying on the trails helps to protect fragile plant and animal habitat. Staying on designated trails also helps to prevent tick bites and exposure to Poison Ivy and Stinging Nettles.
  • Pets must be leashed on a six foot leash or less at all times. Pets are prohibited from entering any body of water located within the refuge. This regulation is strictly enforced for the protection of the visiting public, the protection of animal and plant habitat, and to prevent the spread of diseases between animals. 
  • Bicycles are allowed on designated service roads. Please ride on the right side of all service roads in order to prevent accidents and injuries to the visiting public. Please refer to the official refuge trail map for designated bike routes.
  • All vehicles are restricted to designated parking areas. All vehicles are subject to Pennsylvania motor vehicle laws within the boundaries of the refuge.
  • Alcoholic beverages are prohibited anywhere on the refuge.
  • Fires, or cooking with grills is prohibited.
  • Feeding wildlife is prohibited. This regulation is strictly enforced for the protection of the visiting public, the protection of animal and plant habitat, and to prevent the spread of diseases. 
  • Collecting, disturbing, removing, or injuring any animal or plant within refuge boundaries is strictly prohibited
  • For public safety, swimming and/or ice skating is prohibited in all areas of the refuge
  • Camping is prohibited within the refuge.
  • Off road vehicles are prohibited in all areas of the refuge.
  • Remember: Refuges are different from parks. Refuges are set aside for wildlife first. Please help protect them and visitors by respecting refuge rules.

Launching, landing, or operating an aircraft to include unmanned aircraft (drone)from or on lands and waters administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service is prohibited, 50 CFR 27.34.
This restriction is to protect the public from hazards and preserve the refuge’s natural, aesthetic, and scenic values. The use of unmanned aircraft devices, such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or drones, has the potential to interfere with public safety by posing an in-flight hazard to other legal aircraft use in the area. The use of these devices also has the potential to disrupt wildlife by interrupting migration, nesting, mating, and hunting as well as native birds and mammals, which could result in harassment of wildlife, 50 CFR 27.51(a).
This restriction is in accordance with 50 CFR 26.31 General Provisions; public recreation will be permitted on national wildlife refuges as an appropriate incidental or secondary use, only after it has been determined that such recreation use is practicable and not inconsistent with the primary objectives for which each particular area was established or with other authorized Federal operations. All public recreational activities are closed until opened.

As of February 22, 2010, a federal law allows people who can legally possess firearms under applicable federal, state, and local laws, to legally possess firearms on federal lands.
H.R.627 – Credit Card Act of 2009 Section 512
It is the responsibility of visitors to understand and comply with all applicable state, local, and federal firearms laws before entering this refuge. As a starting point, please visit the website for Pennsylvania State: Carrying Firearms in Pennsylvania.
The new federal law has no effect on existing laws and regulations regarding the use of firearms on federal lands or hunting. Hunting and other uses of firearms is not allowed in John Heinz NWR. Federal law also prohibits firearms in certain federal facilities; those places are marked with signs at all public entrances.

Marijuana on Federal Lands
John Heinz NWR would like to provide clarification regarding the use and possession of marijuana on Federal lands. Pennsylvania State law, which does not allow for recreational marijuana use, but does allow for medicinal use under certain conditions, has no bearing on Federal laws which continue to identify marijuana as a Schedule I illegal drug, and prohibits its use.
Possession of marijuana or use of any amount of marijuana along with all other Schedule I illegal drugs is still prohibited in John Heinz NWR (Federal lands) to include but not limited to its facilities and lands. Violations are punishable by a fine or imprisonment, or both, 50 CFR 27.82 (b)(2), 16 U.S.C. 551, 18 U.S.C. 3559 and 3571.