Laws and Regulations

On national wildlife refuges, WILDLIFE COMES FIRST! All areas of the refuge are closed to public entry unless otherwise explicitly posted as an auto tour route, nature trail, hunt area, fishing area, or parking lot.Some areas are closed seasonally and are posted as such.

Visitors to national wildlife refuges must comply with all applicable local, state, federal regulations and signs.

Hours – San Luis NWR, Merced NWR, and San Joaquin River NWR are open daily from ½-hour before sunrise to ½-hour after sunset.

Fees – There are no fees to use the auto tour routes, nature trails, or fishing areas.

Permits – There are no permits required to use the auto tour routes or nature trails. A valid California fishing license is required for fishing on the refuge.

State / Federal permits and/or licenses are required for activities that are traditionally highly regulated (such as hunting or fishing) or otherwise prohibited. Common examples include:

A refuge specific Special Use Permit (SUP) is required to enter closed areas or conduct activities that are otherwise prohibited. For more information or to request a permit, contact the refuge manager for the area where the proposed activity will occur at the San Luis NWR Complex: 209-826-3508.

Hunters and anglers must comply with State of California license requirements and regulations. See State of California Department of Fish and Wildlife website for more information:

Speed– Speed limit is 25 mph unless otherwise posted.

Visitors must comply with all posted rules and regulations, in addition to what is listed below:

  • No trespassing in posted closed areas. Do not walk or drive beyond “Area Closed” signs.
  • No entry behind closed gates or fences
  • No night use. The refuge is open from ½-hour before sunrise to ½-hour after sunset.
  • No travel off of designated public use roads or trails
  • No parking outside of designated parking lots
  • No pets off leash when outside of vehicles
  • No dog field trials or dog training
  • No walking on auto tour routes
  • No bicycling
  • No horseback riding
  • No camping
  • No fires or cooking grills
  • No weapons (except shotguns used during lawful hunting activities as authorized by daily hunting permit)
  • No discharge of firearms (except during lawful hunting activities as authorized by daily hunting permit)
  • No take, disturbance or collection of wildlife or plants
  • No search for or removal of objects of antiquity or other valued objects
  • No prospecting or mining
  • No feeding wildlife
  • No spotlighting
  • No interference with persons engaged in authorized activities
  • No marijuana