Facility 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 public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

    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



  • See refuge-specific hunting brochure



  • Trapping is allowed by Special Use Permit only.



  •  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.