Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why does the refuge burn the marsh?

    Natural fires have historically occurred over the marshes surrounding Mackay Island. Since the island has been settled, many of the natural fires have been controlled. Fire can provide many benefits to the natural ecosystem of the area. Prescribed fire is a useful management tool that is extensively used on Mackay National Wildlife Refuge for vegetation management. Prescribed burns help to improve goose browse, reduce woody vegetation intrusion and reduce wildfire hazards. Goose browse is improved by removing old, rank vegetation and enabling the fresh green growth to be accessed by the birds. Fire helps to recycle nutrients that add to the productivity of the marsh. Fire also helps set back the successional stage and prevents the growth of woody vegetation. In addition, these fires are used to help reduce the buildup of wildfire fuels. Due to the proximity of the refuge to the community of Knotts Island, wildfires threaten not only refuge facilities but also private homes and businesses on the Island.

  • What recreational opportunities are available on Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge?

    Mackay Island is open from sunrise to sunset. All portions of the refuge are open to wildlife-dependent recreation from March 15 through October 15. Year-round public use is permitted in the following portions of the refuge: Corey's Ditch and the canal on the north side of the Marsh Causeway are open to fishing and crabbing. Mackay Island Road, from it's junction with SR 615 to the Dike Gate, and the Great Marsh Trail are open to walking, biking, motor vehicles (prohibited on the Great Marsh Trail), Bank fishing, wildlife observation, and wildlife photography. Sport fishing for largemouth bass, catfish, bream and other species is allowed in all canals, bays, and ponds from March 15 through October 15 each year. The refuge impoundments (East Pool, Middle Pool, and West Pool) are open to bank fishing only. All refuge waters, ponds, canals and bays are closed to boating from October 16 through March 14 each year. Public deer hunts (by permit only) are conducted during the fall months (September through December). Special "Open Roads Day" events are held throughout the year where visitors may drive the dike and trail system around the refuge impoundments to view wildlife. These are publicized in advance through local media.


  • May I hunt waterfowl on Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge?

    Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge is closed to waterfowl hunting. The refuge was established as a wintering area, primarily for greater snow geese, waterfowl and other migratory birds. Access to most of the refuge is closed from October 16 through March 14 to reduce the disturbance to the wintering waterfowl. Currituck Sound, which surrounds the refuge, is heavily hunted. By eliminating waterfowl hunting on the refuge, a sanctuary area is provided for the birds.