Facility Rules and Policies

Know Before You Go

There are many fun, interesting, and educational activities you can do on Turnbull. Keep in mind, if an activity is not wildlife related and doesn't help in the protection or understanding of wildlife or their habitat, there are probably refuge rules governing the activity. Please check with refuge management before participating in an activity that could harm the environment or yourself. 

We have several rules and regulations in place to help with the protection of our wildlife and their habitats, as well as for the enjoyment of all visitors to the refuge. Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is actively patrolled by Federal Wildlife Officers. All federal, state, and local laws and regulations are applicable on refuge system lands and waters. 

Cell phone reception in the refuge is extremely limited. Don’t assume it will work! Make a safety plan before you go and always let someone know where you will be and when you plan to return.

Weather in the Inland Northwest can fluctuate suddenly. Temperatures may reach upward of 100°F (50°C) in the summer and can drop below freezing 32°F (10°C) in the fall and winter. Dress in layers to protect yourself from the sun. Thunderstorms can appear suddenly and produce lightning. Dense blankets of fog are common, particularly in the mornings and evenings of the winter months.

Turnbull NWR has an extraordinarily abundant population of wood ticks. Take precaution when hiking during the spring and summer, when ticks are most active. Wood ticks are known to carry diseases among dogs and humans, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia (Rabbit Fever), and tick paralysis. Although Lyme disease is the most commonly-reported tick-borne disease in the United States, it is rare in Washington State.

Refuge phone number: (509) 235-4723
Emergency Phone Number: 911

Alcohol and Other Drugs

The consumption of alcohol and other drugs is prohibited on the refuge. 

It is unlawful for any person under the age of twenty-one years to possess, consume, or otherwise acquire any alcoholic beverage. It is unlawful for any person to sell, give, or otherwise supply alcoholic beverages to any person under the age of twenty-one years of age. 

It is unlawful for any person to possess “drug paraphernalia’ that is used or intended to be used for injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance as defined by Washington State law. Note: cannabis and other THC-based products are still considered controlled substances on federal lands, despite being legal or decriminalized in other states.


Bicycles are allowed on designated public access roads, specifically, South Smith Road (the entrance road) and the Auto Tour Route. Riding bicycles off road or on trails is prohibited.


Camping, including the building of campfires, is prohibited on the refuge. Camping is available at nearby, privately owned and operated resorts and campgrounds.


The collection of any plant or animal or parts thereof is prohibited except licensed hunting in accordance with state and federal law. 

Removing shed antlers from refuges is generally illegal. An exception has been made for Wyoming's National Elk Refuge, where the local Jackson District Boy Scouts help refuge staff collect antlers for auction each year through a special use permit.

Cultural and Paleontological Resources

The refuge is located in the traditional homeland of the Spokane People and other tribes who are connected through their shared history of this region. The refuge also contains historic ruins and debris from early Euro-American colonization and cultivation. All cultural and paleontological resources and sites on the refuge are protected. Please enjoy the archeological sites throughout the refuge, but take only pictures.

Strive to visit just like an archaeologist. Don’t touch or remove any artifacts - it not only prevents future visitors from being able to enjoy them, but is also a violation of federal law.

If you have questions about historic sites or artifacts, or you are interested in becoming a site steward, please contact the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.


Launching, landing or disturbing of wildlife by aircraft (drones) is prohibited, per 50 CFR 27.34/27.61.


Firewood cutting is allowed for off-refuge use by permit only.


Because the majority of the wetlands at the refuge are seasonal in nature and generally no more than 24 inches in depth, they do not support any fish larger than minnows and stickleback. As such, fishing is prohibited at Turnbull NWR. 

It is illegal to release any fish on public lands, including game species and non-native or exotic pet species, such as goldfish. Persons caught releasing fishes into refuge waters can face penalties including fines and arrest. 

Hunting and Firearms


Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is committed to providing a variety of quality hunt opportunities in accordance with all state and federal regulations. Elk hunting is allowed by refuge permit only during special seasons. Youth waterfowl hunting is allowed during the State youth day and weekends from the beginning of the regular waterfowl season until November 30. Turkey hunting is allowed by reservation during the fall season, The refuge is closed to hunting of all other species. 

Trail camera use is prohibited.

Please refer to refuge regulations on hunting for more information. 


It is prohibited to shoot or discharge any firearm from, across, or along a public highway, designated route of travel, road, road shoulder, road embankment, or designated parking area. Persons possessing, transporting, or carrying firearms on National Wildlife Refuges must comply with all provisions of state and local law. Persons may only use (discharge) firearms in accordance with refuge regulations (50 CFR 27.42 and specific refuge regulations in 50 CFR Part 32). Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons are prohibited in Federal Facilities in accordance with 18 USC section 930.

Firearms and weapons may only be discharged during legal hunting activities. Carrying or possessing other weapons including crossbows, bows and arrows, or air guns is prohibited. This includes carrying, possessing, or discharging fireworks and explosives. Target shooting is prohibited on any national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Learn more about national wildlife refuge

Organized Group Activities

All organized group activities, including portrait and event photography – commercial or otherwise, as well as tours and organized group visits – require a special use permit. For more information or to obtain a permit, please contact Cassie Roeder, Refuge Manager.

Group athletic training of any kind is prohibited.


Even the best behaving pet can unintentionally scare or harm the wildlife, or be harmed by the wildlife. We suggest you leave your pets at home; however dogs are permitted if they are kept on a non-retractable leash (no longer than 6 ft.) and are under the control of their owner at all times. Owners must be sure to clean up any pet waste. For your convenience, a dog waste station is located at the Pine Lake Loop trailhead.

There is no animal dumping permitted on the refuge. If you have a cat, goldfish, or any other pet you can no longer take care of, please find a new home for it away from the refuge. Domesticated animals are ill-adapted to survive on their own, can carry diseases fatal to their wild relatives, and may eat the native species that live here. If you need help finding a new home for your pet, please check the Don't Let It Loose website.

Refuge Access and Use

Activities and Visitor Hours

The refuge is open during daylight hours, specifically, from 6 am and 6 pm between the months of November through April, and from 6 am to 9 pm between the months of May through October.

Closed Areas

Visitor access is limited to a 3,300 acre Public Use Area, Columbia Plateau Trail and designated areas identified in hunt permits. To minimize disturbance to plants and animals, visitors are required to stay on trails and designated roadways March 1 through August 15 and are asked to comply with all regulatory signs. 

Columbia Plateau Trail

 Washington State Park's Columbia Plateau State Park bisects the west side of the refuge. Visitors are reminded that the refuge is closed to the public on both sides of the trail. Public access to this trail is only available off-refuge at the Cheney-Spangle Road Trailhead and Amber Lake Trailhead. 


Litter can be much more than an eyesore.  

Wildlife often mistake trash for food and can become sick, poisoned, or choke while eating it. Animals can also become entangled or injured by garbage left behind.

Discarded food is also dangerous. Eating it can cause illness and disease, and wildlife accustomed to human food can become pests and lose their ability to find natural food on their own.  

Please keep your refuge clean and wildlife safe - pack out all garbage and food waste. If, for some reason, you are unable to pack out your waste, wildlife-proof trash containers are located at the visitor contact station and comfort station. 

Vehicular Travel

The entrance road, auto tour route, and designated parking areas are available for year-round street vehicle and bicycle use inside the Visitor Use Area. Vehicles must remain on these roadway facilities. The designated speed limit for all roadways is 25 MPH.

Overnight parking is prohibited.

The use of ATV, ORV, and snowmobiles is prohibited on all areas of the refuge.

Please keep an eye out for wildlife crossing all roads on- and off-refuge. Animals such as turtles, snakes, and porcupines are often (and unintentionally) killed by vehicles. Larger wildlife such as deer, elk, and moose can run out into traffic at any time. Such accidents are often fatal to the animal.


One of the defining features of the Channeled Scablands is the many seasonal wetlands and other bodies of water. These small ponds, lakes, and ephemeral pools are fragile, often supporting a complex array of plants, birds, and amphibians. As such, all water-based activities including: boating, swimming, bathing, fishing, and on-ice activities are prohibited on the refuge.


The feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentional disturbing of wildlife, including nesting and breeding birds is prohibited. 

Please practice a good rule of thumb and stay at least 25 yards away from all larger wildlife such as moose and elk. With your arm extended and making a “thumbs up” sign, if you can cover the entire animal with your thumb, you are likely at a comfortable viewing distance for both you and wildlife.

The taking of wildlife, except by authorized hunting and trapping activities is prohibited.