The Refuge protects critically important habitat for numerous iconic species, including elk, bison, wolves, trumpeter swans, bald eagles, bighorn sheep, and cutthroat trout. The landscape of the Refuge is primarily glacial outwash plain and rolling hills with a narrow, winding creek. The Refuge is surrounded by the rugged peaks of the Teton and Gros Ventre Mountain Ranges.
We invite you to discover Jackson's, the National Elk Refuge.
The 24,700+ acres of grasslands, wetlands, and forests conserved on the Refuge support a diverse assembly of plants and animals. The Refuge is a premier location for wildlife watching and photography, as well as hunting, fishing, and educational opportunities. Through conservation efforts, the Refuge serves to benefit the people of today and future generations.
plan your trip
Plan your trip through our website or visit us at the National Elk Refuge & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center in Jackson, WY. Check us out on Instagram!
where are the elk
Elk are typically visible on the Refuge from mid-December through early April. In late spring, elk begin migrating off the Refuge toward their summer ranges. Most elk will follow the receding snow line up to higher elevations in Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger Teton National Forest. From October through December, deepening snow push the elk down from high elevation summer ranges to seek food and shelter at lower elevations in Jackson Hole.
Location and Contact Information
The Refuge was established by various Acts of Congress, executive orders, and other documents to provide, preserve, restore, and manage lands for wintering elk, birds, and other big game animals. The main Act of Congress on August 10, 1912 set aside lands “for the establishment of a winter game (elk) reserve in the State of Wyoming, lying south of the Yellowstone Park . . .”
Lands now designed as the National Elk Refuge are the Indigenous homelands for a number of different tribes, including, Bannock, Eastern Shoshone, Northern Shoshone, Assiniboine, Athabascans, Comanche, Crow, Aaniiih, Kiowa, Kootenai, Nimiipuu, Salish, Teton Sioux, and Umatilla.
What We Do
Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It drives everything on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters managed within the Refuge System, from the purposes for which ais established to the recreational activities offered to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, the Refuge System manages Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species.
Projects and Research
Refuge staff lead and collaborate on many different research and monitoring projects that pertain to wildlife conservation.
If you are a researcher looking to access the Refuge for your studies, please fill out a Research & Monitoring special use permit form.
On August 1, 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a Notice of Intent to develop an updated Bison and Elk Management Plan and an associated Environmental Impact Statement for managing elk, bison and habitat on the National Elk Refuge. The documents associated with this announcement are in the Federal Register.