Plan Your Visit

Wells Island. Credit; USFWS

For generations, the islands of the Ohio River inspired the imagination. In their wild form, they conjure images of Huckleberry Finn, or echo the adventures and struggles of local tribes and of frontiersmen. Through the industrial era, it may have seemed the opportunity to experience the islands had passed forever. But now it is possible once again to experience the rich natural splendor and to explore the islands of the great Ohio River.

Know before you go

During your visit to the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, keep in mind:

  • Refuge lands, including islands in the river and all refuge trails, are open every day from an hour before sunrise to an hour after sunset 
  • The Buckley mainland tract (visitor center) is the only property with indoor restrooms and potable water. Middle Island has an outdoor toilet. All other properties have no refuge facilities. Please plan accordingly. 
  • Most of the refuge’s properties do not have maintained trails, so heavy underbrush may restrict movement.
  • The refuge is a natural area. Be mindful of poison ivy, thorny plants, ticks, bees, and mosquitoes. 
  • All plants and animals, parts thereof, and other objects of nature are protected from disturbance. Collection is prohibited. 
  • Observe wildlife from a safe and respectful distance. Binoculars allow you to view wildlife closely without disturbing them. 
  • When landing on an island be aware of steep banks and rock dikes.


Points of interest

The Refuge Visitor Center, located at 3982 Waverly Road in Williamstown, WV, is an essential stop for any refuge visitor seeking to gain a deeper understanding about what this special land and waterscape is all about. The facility features exhibits on refuge history and wildlife, including those creatures not easily seen as a casual visitor to the islands. Exhibits describe the importance of mussel beds that are the focus of refuge restoration efforts, and there are aquariums containing fish and turtles that can be found in the Ohio River. There are also several short trails around the visitor center that give a great view of the Ohio River and Buckley Island. Additional trails include a loop around a butterfly garden and a 1.2 mile hike through an upland forest. Fishing and canoe / kayak access is located on site as well. If you have any questions during your visit, the staff at the visitor center will be more than happy to answer them.

Visitor Center Hours:
Monday - Saturday
8:00 a.m. 4:30 p.m.
**We are closed federal holidays.

Several islands have sandy beaches which are a popular stop for boaters, especially during the summer.

Middle Island in St. Marys, WV is one of the few islands on the Ohio River with bridge access. It features over 3.5 miles of hiking trails with scenic views of the Ohio River and Middle Island wetland. A 1.5 mile auto tour runs along the western shore of the island presenting several stopping points with informational panels. Fishing access and a wildlife observation blind can also be found on the island.