Coronavirus (COVID-19) Notice
Although most refuge lands and outdoor spaces have remained open for the public to enjoy, we ask that you recreate responsibly.

  • Check alerts and local conditions on this website and call ahead for current information. Operations vary based on local public health conditions.
  • Consistent with CDC recommendations, all visitors (age 2 and older), who are fully vaccinated are required to wear a mask inside of federal buildings in areas of substantial or high community transmission.. All visitors who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces.
  • Most importantly, stay home if you feel sick and continue to watch for symptoms of COVID-19 and follow CDC guidance on how to protect yourself and others.


  • White Pelicans / USFWS

    Life on the Salt

    The salt flats may be devoid of vegetation but they are rich in wildlife. While some birds nest here, others feed on salt brine flies.

    Wildlife & Habitat

  • Hourglass selenite crystal / John Betts ©

    Unique to the Refuge

    Selenite crystals can grow the length of a pencil and weigh up to 38 pounds. Dig deep and find one!

    Digging for Crystals

  • Presentation for students / USFWS

    Enjoy, Explore, Learn

    Educators – bring your indoor classroom outside. The refuge is a great place to learn about science, math, art, history and more.

  • Turtle floating / Jenny and Oliver Davis ©

    For Wildlife & You

    National Wildlife Refuges are managed for wildlife and habitat and to ensure future generations will always have wild places to explore!

    Visitor Activities



In keeping with guidance from the White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and acting out of an abundance of caution, we are temporarily suspending operations of the Visitor Center at the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge. We are committed to doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure the health and safety of our employees, volunteers, and you--our friends and neighbors. Therefore, planned Refuge events and programs may not take place as scheduled. Refuge lands, including nature trails and outdoor recreational activities, remain open and accessible to the public. Please visit refuge information kiosks or brochure boxes for vistor information and refuge maps. We apologize for any inconvenience and will provide updates as they become available.

Eagle Watch Canceled


Unfortunately, Eagle Watch this year is canceled due to low eagle numbers. One potential reason for low eagle numbers is the mild winter. More ducks are staying north and eagles like many predators follow their prey. The best time to view eagles is in the winter at Jet Recreation Nature Trail or Cottonwood Point. Directions to Cottonwood Point: go south on state highway 38 towards Nescatunga and stop at the boat ramp on the first curve.

Selenite Crystals


April 1 through October 15 the crystal digging area at the refuge will be open for visitors. It is open daily, from sunrise to sunset, and it is free. Bring the family out to the refuge and harvest your own selenite crystals (the state crystal of Oklahoma) and create memories that will last a lifetime. Address to the digging area gate is: 66003 Garvin Road, Cherokee, OK

Crystal Digging

Weekly Waterfowl Survey

Each week, September through March, staff performs a waterfowl survey on Tuesday mornings. Click following link for most current survey.

Waterfowl Surveys
Featured Stories

Did You Know?

Western snowy plover mother and chick / USFWS

Snowy plovers nest on the refuge’s salt flats where the female uses pebbles and skeletons of invertebrates to line the nest and vegetation to keep the eggs warm. Chicks are very independent and will leave the nest within hours of hatching. Parents train the young to watch for predators and signal them to lie flat on the ground when danger is near. The snowy plover’s favorite meal is succulent brine flies found in the salt lake. These tiny bugs are nutrient-rich and help quench the bird’s thirst. When the flies dive into the salty waters, a bubble forms around them that provides oxygen for up to 15 minutes. As the flies swim below, the snowy plover wait along the shore line ready to catch a meal when the flies are forced to surface.

Featured Stories

History of Conservation

President Theodore Roosevelt 150 x 115

In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt established the Pelican Island Bird Reservation, the first of 53 federal reserves he would create during his time in office and the roots of what is today known as the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 26th president was a dedicated naturalist throughout his life and is considered by many to have been the country’s “Conservationist President.”

History of the Refuge System

About the NWRS

National Wildlife Refuge System


The National Wildlife Refuge System, within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manages a national network of lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife, and plants.

Learn more about the NWRS