CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) NOTICE

Although most refuge lands and outdoor spaces have remained open for the public to enjoy, we ask that you recreate responsibly.

Visit Us

National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings. Visiting Mingo National Wildlife Refuge is an opportunity to see how much of southeast Missouri appeared before development, when 2.5 million acres were bottomland hardwood forest and cypress-tupelo swamp. This rich habitat supports many species of wildlife and provides us the chance to appreciate them in a variety of ways.

Driving Directions

From US-60, turn north on MO-51. Travel 13 miles to the visitor center entrance.

From I-55, exit at west at MO-AB/Nash Road and travel for 5.6 miles. At the traffic circle, take the second exit on to MO-25 South. Continue for 16 miles. Turn west (right) on State Hwy C in Advance and travel for 10 miles. Turn south (left) at MO-51 and travel for 11 miles to the visitor center entrance.

When using GPS or smartphone apps, use the refuge address: 24279 MO-51, Puxico, MO 63960. Entering the refuge name will not accurately bring you to the right location.

Fees

Entrance permits are required year-round for entering the refuge. Permits are available at the refuge visitor center. For each vehicle, you need one of the following:

  • Daily Permit ($3.00; also available at entrance kiosks)
  • Mingo-specific Annual Pass ($12.00)
  • Federal Duck Stamp ($25.00)
  • Interagency Annual Pass ($80.00)
  • Interagency Lifetime Senior Pass ($80.00) for U.S. Citizen 62 years of age or older 
  • Interagency Annual Senior Pass ($20.00) for U.S. Citizen 62 years of age or older 
  • Interagency Access Pass (free) for U.S. Citizen with a permanent disability
  • Interagency Annual Military Pass (free) for active Military and their dependent(s)
  • Commercial Vans and Buses
    • 1-24 people - $15.00
    • 25+ people - $25.00

Restrooms

Restrooms are available inside and outside the visitor center. There are also several pit toilets located around the refuge.

Points of Interest

Start your visit off at the Mingo National Wildlife Refuge visitor center. Inside you'll find exhibits on the plants, wildlife, habitat and history of the refuge. The visitor center also has a theater where visitors can watch a 10 minute video discussing the primary purpose of the refuge. Refuge staff or volunteers will also be available to help orientate you to the refuge based on your interests.

You can observe wildlife along three auto tour routes. Be alert, drive slowly and avoid any critters crossing the road. Bluff Road and Red Mill Drive are open year round and the Ozark Highlands Auto Tour Route is open March - November, conditions / weather permitting. (Note: Ozark Highlands Auto Tour Route may be closed at any point for maintenance or management needs.)

Another popular activity is walking the Swampwalk Nature Trail, which consists of an accessible boardwalk that meanders 0.8 miles through the bottomland hardwood forest.

What to Do

If you have 15 minutes

  • Stop by the visitor center and view exhibits or a 10-minute refuge video
  • Walk the Swampwalk Nature Trail and experience the swamp
  • Drive Red Mill Drive or Bluff Road and look for wildlife and swamp scenery
  • Hike the Hillside Trail near the visitor center
     

If you have an hour or two

  • Drive the Ozark Highlands Auto Tour (March - November) or drive any of the other wildlife drives - there are more than 30 miles of auto tour roads
  • Bike Bluff Road
  • Try some bank fishing on the Mingo River or in one of the ditches
  • Hike to the historic Sweet Cabin
  • Check out an activity backpack, fishing gear or binoculars from the visitor center
     

If you have half a day or more

  • Try some hunting in the bottomland hardwood forest
  • Take a hike through the wilderness area wilderness area
    Wilderness areas are places untamed by humans. The Wilderness Act of 1964 allows Congress to designate wilderness areas for protection to ensure that America's pristine wild lands will not disappear. Wilderness areas can be part of national wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests or…

    Learn more about wilderness area
    or make a loop on the levees
  • Paddle the canoe trail

Know Before you Go

To be prepared out on the refuge, remember to bring:

  • Binoculars or camera
  • Sunglasses
  • Insect repellant / long sleeves and pants
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Comfortable shoes for walking / hiking
  • Dress in layers for changing temperatures

Please pack out all your trash. During warmer months, ticks, chiggers and poison ivy can get in the way of a good time. Use insect repellent and be aware of your surroundings if hiking off-trail. It is important to use GPS if you are venturing into unfamiliar areas or into the woods. Cell phone coverage can be sporadic.

Visitor Tips

  • Morning and evening are the best times to visit to see wildlife
  • Remember to check for ticks when you leave
  • Before you visit you can check iNaturalist and eBird for recent sightings to see what other guests have seen
  • Check out binoculars, activity backpacks, and fishing equipment at the visitor center, they just need to be returned by the close of business
  • Weekends are the busiest times on the refuge, but there are plenty of places to spread out
  • April and May are the best months to see spring migratory birds
  • September and October are the best months for fall migratory birds
  • Fall color peak is usually the last week of October; bald cypress turn color in September
  • Winter waterfowl peak numbers are usually early to mid-December, depending on weather, but they can be on refuge in large numbers from November - February
  • There are resident eagles on the refuge, but the numbers increase December - February with winter visitors; nesting happens December - April

Activities

Mingo National Wildlife Refuge provides several great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. The mixture of bottomland forests, wetlands and swamps creates great waterways for canoeing and kayaking while also being great wildlife observation, hunting and fishing areas.

Trails

Swampwalk Nature Trail

Open season: Year round
Length: 0.8 miles
Location of trail: On Bluff Road of MO-51, or down Bluff Trail from the visitor center
Surface: Raised boardwalk/asphalt
Difficulty: Low intensity
Information: Meanders through bottomland hardwood forest alongside Ditch 11 near Rockhouse Marsh just below the Visitor Center; wheelchair and stroller accessible

Bluff Trail

Open season: Year round
Length: 0.15 miles
Location of trail: Trailheads at visitor center and Bluff Road
Surface: Packed dirt and gravel, uneven
Difficulty: Moderate/High Intensity
Information: Connects the visitor center and the Swampwalk Nature Trial; a short, steep hike in upland hardwood forest

Hartz Pond Trail

Open season: Year round
Length: 0.2 miles
Location of trail: Trailhead is at the south side of the visitor center parking lot
Surface: Gravel
Difficulty: Low to moderate intensity
Information: Short loop trail to a small pond

Sweet Cabin Trail

Open season: March - November
Length: 0.8 miles round-trip
Location of trail: Near Stanley Creek on the Ozark Highlands Auto Tour
Surface: Packed dirt and gravel
Difficulty: Moderate intensity
Information: Backcountry hiking on the edge of the Mingo wilderness area wilderness area
Wilderness areas are places untamed by humans. The Wilderness Act of 1964 allows Congress to designate wilderness areas for protection to ensure that America's pristine wild lands will not disappear. Wilderness areas can be part of national wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests or…

Learn more about wilderness area
just north of Stanley Creek leading to a Great Depression-era cabin

Unofficial Trails

Levee tops, service roads and the wilderness area can also provide pleasant and longer hiking experiences.

Other Facilities in the Complex

Rules and Policies

General Regulations

Access to the refuge trails and lands are open from 1/2 hour before sunrise until 1/2 hour after sunset unless otherwise posted. Do not enter areas signed as closed. For access information related to hunting, visit our hunting information web page and read the hunting brochure. Please consult the refuge-specific brochures or contact the visitor center for complete rules and regulations.

Prohibited Activities:

  • Vehicles must stay on designated access roads, public roads, and parking areas.
  • The use of ATVs, UTVs or golf carts anywhere on the refuge.
  • Use of any motorized or mechanical equipment in the wilderness area wilderness area
    Wilderness areas are places untamed by humans. The Wilderness Act of 1964 allows Congress to designate wilderness areas for protection to ensure that America's pristine wild lands will not disappear. Wilderness areas can be part of national wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests or…

    Learn more about wilderness area
  • Drones (UAVs) taking off, landing and/or flying on or over refuge lands 
  • Launching, landing or disturbing of wildlife by aircraft (includes drones) on the refuge; this includes for recreational or commercial purposes
  • Use of a spotlight, headlight or other artificial light to spot, locate or take any wild animal
  • Camping, open fires and overnight parking
  • Target shooting
  • Training pets and allowing pets off leash
  • Shed antler hunting
  • Collection or harm to mussels, crayfish and other aquatic species, including frogs
  • Abandoning, discarding or otherwise leaving any personal property-all property brought onto a refuge must be removed at the end of each day and includes, but is not limited to vehicles, boats, fishing equipment, decoys, trail cameras, blinds, photography equipment, and trash.
  • Destructing, defacing, disturbing or unauthorized removal of any natural object, artifact, cultural resource or government property 
  • Introducing, liberating or placing plants or animals or their parts, taken elsewhere on refuge lands or waters
  • Disposing of animal carcasses, trash, refuse, rocks, wood or other debris 
  • Cutting, mowing, sawing, digging, collecting, injuring or removing vegetation except that which is approved for foraging March-September. 
  • Commercial enterprise without a special use permit
  • Use or possession of any illegal drug or drug paraphernalia is prohibited
  • Possession of a firearm inside any building

 

Water Access

  • All refuge waters are open to fishing and boating March 1 - September 30
  • Water access is allowed year round on Red Mill Pond, Mingo River (South of Ditch 6 Road), Stanley Creek, May Pond, Fox Pond, and Ditches 1, 2, 3, 10 and 11
  • See map for waterfowl sanctuary areas closed to access October - February
  • The use of gas-powered boat motors is prohibited anywhere on the refuge
  • The possession of any motor (gas or electric) is prohibited within the wilderness area
  • Boats must be removed from refuge daily
  • All boats must meet State or Missouri requirements.

 

Gathering Opportunities

  • Visitors may gather mushrooms, berries and pokeweed with the following stipulations.
  • Gathering is allowed March 1 - September 30 south of Ditch 11, west of Ditch 6 and north of the Ozark Highlands Auto Tour to Ditch 4
  • Plant products are for personal use only and cannot be sold or traded
  • Daily limit 2 gallons mushrooms and berries per day; 5 gallons pokeweed per day
  • Ground disturbance is prohibited
  • Damaging other vegetation while harvesting is prohibited
  • Planting or cultivating plants for harvest is prohibited
  • Use of trained animals, other than leashed dogs, to assist in mushroom hunting is not permitted

 

Hunting 

  • See refuge-specific hunting brochure

 

Trapping 

  • Trapping is allowed by Special Use Permit only.

 

Fishing 

  •  Allowed methods include pole and line, trotline, throwline, limb line, bank line, jug line and yo-yo. 
  • Only pole and line method may be used in Fox Pond and May Pond
  • Non-game fish may be taken for personal use by net or seine March 1 - September 30
  • Anglers must attend trammel and gill nets at all times and label nets and lines with owner’s MO Conservation ID number
  • All fishing lines and nets must be removed at the end of each day’s fishing
  • Snapping and soft-shell turtles may be harvested by pole and line only
  • Bow-fishing and gigging is prohibited
  • Alligator gar and alligator snapping turtles must be immediately released
  • Harvest limits for sport fish align with state limits for impounded waters
  • Collection or harm to mussels, crayfish and other aquatic species, including frogs are prohibited. 

 

Horseback Riding and Recreational Biking

  • Permitted year-round on the Ozark Highlands Auto Tour and roads open to vehicular traffic
  • From March 1 - September 30, horseback riding and biking is allowed on the 6-mile loop of road between Ditch 3 and 4 and the Ditch 6 Service Road
  • All other roadways, dike tops, nature trails and levees are closed to equestrian and bicycle use
  • Electric bikes are restricted to the same locations as non-motorized bicycles and must observe speed limits

 

In addition to these provisions, all state laws, county codes and Title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations apply on the refuge. If you have any questions about the legality of any activity, please contact the refuge office.

Locations

Mingo National Wildlife Refuge
24279 MO-51 Puxico, MO 63960

Mingo National Wildlife Refuge is located in Stoddard and Wayne Counties in southeast Missouri. The visitor center is located 1.5 miles north of the town of Puxico on State Highway 51/MO-51.

In addition to the visitor center entrance, you can enter the refuge at the following locations:

  • Bluff Road on MO-51 just north of visitor center entrance
  • Schoolhouse Access located 4 miles north of visitor center entrance on MO-51
  • Mingo Job Corps on Missouri T approximately 2 miles west of MO-51
  • Rabbit Ridge from State Hwy Z to County Road 518
  • McGee Gate from State Hwy Z to County Road 513 (non-motorized access only)
Driving Directions

From US-60, turn north on MO-51. Travel 13 miles to the visitor center entrance.

From I-55, exit at west at MO-AB/Nash Road and travel for 5.6 miles. At the traffic circle, take the second exit on to MO-25 South. Continue for 16 miles. Turn west (right) on State Hwy C in Advance and travel for 10 miles. Turn south (left) at MO-51 and travel for 11 miles to the visitor center entrance.

When using GPS or smartphone apps, use the refuge address: 24279 MO-51, Puxico, MO 63960. Entering the refuge name will not accurately bring you to the right location.

Hours
Visitor Center Hours
March-November
Monday-Saturday, 8:30 am - 4:00 pm, closed Federal Holidays
December-February
Monday-Friday, 8:30 am - 4:00 pm, closed Federal Holidays
Refuge Lands, Roads, Trails, and Waters Hours
Year-round
1/2 hours before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset, hours vary for hunting access
Ozark Highlands Auto Tour
March-November
Daily, 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset