National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings.. Muscatatuck is an outstanding place for wildlife observation and photography and is a great place to spend time learning about wildlife and the natural environment. Start your visit at the visitor center to get the latest information, then check out the short, paved, Chestnut Ridge Trail adjacent to the parking lot. From the Visitor Center be sure to drive the four-mile loop Auto Tour route, which winds past wetlands and upland habitat, to see what the refuge is all about. There are also excellent fishing opportunities at the refuge and most of the area is open to several kinds of hunting during the state seasons.
The refuge entrance is located on U.S. Hwy. 50 approximately, three miles east of I-65. The only open vehicle entrance to the refuge is from U.S. Hwy. 50 - do not believe your GPS if it says otherwise. The Visitor Center is the first building on the right when you enter the refuge from U.S. Hwy. 50.
There is no charge to visit.
Restrooms are available at the refuge visitor center and are open during normal refuge hours.
Points of Interest
Strolling the Chestnut Ridge Trail is a must-do activity at Muscatatuck, as is driving the Auto Tour, which provides excellent wildlife-viewing and wildlife photography opportunities from your vehcile. Along the Auto Tour you can stop at the parking area by the Endicott Observation Deck and walk down an old farm road that is an excellent and accessible birding area. Approximately three miles south of the visitor center are the historic Myers Cabin and Barn, well-preserved buildings left by former refuge residents. Two old cemeteries located on the refuge, Barkman Cemetery and Myers Cemetery, are interesting places to visit. The four refuge hiking trails and two observation decks are also good places for wildlife observation.
What To Do
If you have 15-minutes
Stop in at the Visitor Center and talk to the visitor center staff about current wildlife sightings for your next visit. At the visitor center you can watch a short refuge orientation video, browse nature and wildlife exhibits and pick up maps and brochures. While there, you can shop the non-profit Muscatatuck Wildlife Society Nature Shop for field guides, t-shirts and other educational items.
If you have one hour
Drive the auto tour to look for wildlife and enjoy educational programming through a guide available on your smart phone. An Auto Tour guide is located on the Muscatatuck Wildlife Society website. If you would rather get some exercise walk the Chestnut Ridge trail by the Visitor Center or the sidewalk to Discovery Pond.
If you have half a day or more
It takes at least half a day to really experience Muscatatuck. Stop in at the Visitor Center, walk the Chestnut Ridge Trail, drive the auto tour and stop at the Endicott Observation Deck parking area. Walk from there past the observation deck to Mini Marsh, about a mile round trip. Check out the big oaks on Wood Duck Trail. Visit Myers Cabin and Barn. Look for waterfowl on Richart and Stanfield Lakes,then walk Turkey and Bird Trails. If you like fishing, hunting, or wildlife photography give it a try...we think you will have a "wild" time at the refuge!
Know Before You Go
Summers are hot and humid at Muscatatuck and insects may be bothersome. Hats and insect repellent are useful. Trails are often wet, so sturdy walking shoes are recommended. Bring water and be aware restrooms are limited once you pass the visitor center. In winter, minor flooding occurs on a regular basis and some roads may be closed for short periods of time. Please contact the refuge for information on road conditions, flooding and recent wildlife sightings.
Early morning and evening are the best times to see wildlife and take photos along the auto tour. The refuge is rarely crowded, although weekdays are generally less busy than weekends. Binoculars may be borrowed at the visitor center. Be sure to check our list of current wildlife sightings while you’re there. Refuge leaflets are always available at the visitor center and at the kiosk by the refuge entrance gate.
The prime waterfowl viewing times at Muscatatuck are spring and fall. Winter is also a good time to see different kinds of ducks on the refuge and, in recent years, sandhill cranes have been wintering in the area.
Wildlife observation is the main attraction for visitors at the refuge, but there are also excellent opportunities for wildlife photography, birding, hiking, fishing and hunting. The refuge is a beautiful and relaxing place to get outside and connect with nature. Environmental education and interpretive activities are offered by staff and volunteers throughout the year to people of all ages.
There are many short trails at Muscatatuck and a hiker may experience longer walks on old farm lanes and abandoned roads.The most visited trail is the Chestnut Ridge Trail adjacent to the Visitor Center. Chestnut Ridge is a wonderful stroll at all times of the year that features an accessible ridge-top loop with a boardwalk that descends into a seep-spring wetland.Other designated trails include Hunt/Richart,Turkey and Bird,and Wood Duck. Refuge trails are generally easy but are often wet in the spring.
Other Walking Paths
Old roads and farm lanes can provide pleasant hiking experiences. One interesting walk is to walk from the Endicott Observation Deck parking area, west on the old gravel road (E. County Road 500 N.) past the deck. The old road, which is closed to vehicles and grassy, takes you past Mutton Creek and Mini Marsh to an old farm lane on the left that eventually connects to the West Entrance Road (E. County Road 400 N.). The lane may be muddy in spots, but is a pleasant, moderately-easy walk past old house sites, reverting farm fields and beautiful woodlands. The old lane goes up two short hills. If you follow the lane all the way to the West Entrance Road, you will travel a little under two miles.
For a shorter hike, drive to the south end of County Line Road and parking near the closed gate. If you walk past the gate, you can follow an old county road straight south to the Muscatatuck River. This is about a 0.75 mile walk, one way and is easy with a gravel surface. Please note that this trail is for hikers only, but it is often very wet given that you it goes through bottomland forest in the river floodplain. The river is narrow with high muddy banks in this area and is full of log jams. While the river almost dries up in the summer months, after heavy rains it can rise quickly and flood in a short time, spreading water over much of this end of the refuge.
Other Facilities in the Complex
Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge is complexed under Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge, although both refuges are managed independently. Muscatatuck manages the Restle Unit, a 78-acre parcel near Bloomington, Indiana that was donated to the refuge. At the Restle Unit, public use is limited to an observation deck located along Bottom Road.
Rules and Policies
The refuge is open from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. Hunting and fishing are permitted in certain areas. The only items that may be taken from the refuge are shed deer antlers, as well as wild fruits, berries and nuts – all for personal consumption. Dogs must be kept on a leash, unless engaged in an authorized hunting activity.
- Hunting and fishing are allowed in certain areas as indicated in refuge leaflets
- Fishing areas are marked with “Public Fishing Area” signs
- Edible mushrooms, nuts, fruits, and berries may be collected for personal use only. All other collecting of plants is prohibited.
- Shed deer antlers may be collected for personal use only. The collection of dead animal parts and live animals is not permitted.
- The sale of any items obtained from the refuge is prohibited
- Bicycling is permitted only on gravel or paved roads. Riding on hiking trails is prohibited.
- Spotlighting wildlife is prohibited
- Campfires and outdoor grills are not allowed
- Swimming is not allowed
- Off road vehicle use is prohibited
- Entry into areas marked with “Area Closed” signs is not permitted
- Hikers are welcome in any open portion of the refuge
- Dogs must be kept on a leash unless participating in an authorized hunting activity
- Horseback riding is not allowed
- Taking, disturbing, injuring, or possessing any wildlife or plants on the refuge is illegal except as authorized
- It is illegal to release any wild or domestic animal on the refuge
- The refuge speed limit is 20 miles per hour
- Leaving vehicles overnight on the refuge is not permitted
- Littering is prohibited
- Baiting wildlife is prohibited
- Searching for or removing any historic or Native American artifacts from the refuge is not permitted
- The use of metal detectors is not allowed
Beware of following GPS coordinates to the Muscatatuck entrance as they frequently lead people astray. The only entrance to the refuge is on U.S. Hwy. 50 approximately 3 miles east of Seymour, IN.
The Restle Unit is a 78 acre parcel of land on Bottom Road northwest of Bloomington, Indiana. The unit was donated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and consists of a marsh, bottomland hardwood forest, and shrublands along Bean Blossom Creek. There is a viewing platform and parking lot along Bottom Road.
Bald eagles and many species of birds and mammals can sometimes be seen around the marsh and wet woodlands of the Restle Unit. Due to a deed restriction the Unit is closed to public use except for the observation deck and parking lot along Bottom Road. The unit is adjacent to land owned by the Sycamore Land Trust which is open to visitors.
The Restle Unit is there because a Monroe County conservationist donated the parcel to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Mrs. Barbara Restle worked with agencies and non-profit organizations in Indiana for decades to promote conservation and the preservation of wild lands for wildlife.