Facility Rules and Policies

Help staff ensure that wildlife has a place to grow and survive for future generations by respecting refuge rules and obeying posted signs. In addition to standard recreation, the Service encourages adult and youth groups to use the refuge for wildlife-dependent interpretive and educational programs, but they must obtain a permit from the headquarters office.

Permitted Activities
  • Hiking - Visitors must stay on posted trails. Wetlands, fields, and forests are for wildlife only.
  • Vehicles - allowed on posted roads and parking areas; occupants must stay with their vehicles while touring the Wildlife Drive.
  • Bicycling - considered vehicles and may only access the entry road and wildlife drive.
  • Photography - non-commercial
  • Wildlife viewing
Prohibited Activities
  • Pets are not allowed in or out of vehicles inside the refuge gates.
    • Pets are allowed on the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. Park outside the refuge gate if using the PHNST. 
  • Picnicking 
  • Camping and fires
  • In-line skates, and skateboards
  • Fishing
  • Camping
  • Boat, kayak, and canoe landing or launching
  • Drones, fireworks, kite flying or objects launched into the air 
  • Audio devices disturbing to wildlife and people including electronic lures of any kind
  • Disturbing, introducing, or removing plants and animals, living or dead
  • Feeding wildlife
  • Entry into closed areas
  • Vehicles including bikes on foot trails
  • Use of alcohol and illegal substances

Group use of the refuge for education, research, or other activities is regulated to minimize conflict with other visitors and avoid pressure on sensitive habitats. If you would like to hold an event, conduct research or commercial activities on the refuge, you will need a Special Use Permit (SUP). 

Guidelines for Special Use Permits:

  • All groups of 10 or more people require a Special Use Permit
  • Applications for SUPs must be submitted no later than 3 weeks before the proposed date of activity. 
    • Submit applications by mail to the office address below
    • Or submit by email to the appropriate staff member below
  • A $20 fee is charged for SUPs
  • Include as much information about your activity as possible on your application. 
  • Not all activities are acceptable on a wildlife refuge. Staff will review applications for any possible negative impacts to natural resources, or conflicts with other visitor activities. 

Visit the  USFWS Permits Site  to obtain a permit. 

  1. Commercial Activities
    Guiding hunters, anglers, or other outdoor users. Commercial filming audio, video, and photographic products of monetary value. Any activity that requires a fee for registration or participation.
  2. Research and Monitoring
    Research and monitoring activities by students, universities, or other non-FWS organizations
  3. General Special Use
    Miscellaneous events, education activities, self guided groups of 10 or more, other activities not mentioned above.

General and Commercial Activity Permits:

Gabriela Youngken

Visitor Services Specialist


Research and Monitoring Permits:

Chris Wicker

Refuge Biologist


Potomac River NWR Complex
14050 Dawson Beach Road
Woodbridge, VA 22191
(703) 490-4979