Whether you come for an hour or a day, to hunt or to watch wildlife, to see the smallest song bird or photograph the biggest buck, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge has something for everyone. But this isn't a city park, and visitors need to know a few things before they come.
The refuge is open from sunrise to sunset, except for hunting, which has special hours from 1-1/2 hours before legal hunting time to 1-1/2 hours after. To protect nesting birds and wintering waterfowl, most refuge islands are closed to public entry year round.
The main refuge entrance, located on the McCormack Unit, is located 10 miles south of I-84 at the end of Paterson Ferry Road. Parking is allowed in designated parking areas only. The Boardman Unit can be accessed from the Tower Road Exit (Exit 158) off of I-84. The Whitcomb Island, Ridge and Paterson Units can all be accessed from Washington State Highway 14. Please access the refuge only from designated public access areas.
Access difficulty varies by area. Contact the Mid-Columbia River NWR Complex Office for suggestions using the area safely (509-546-8300). Most areas of the refuge are very remote with no restrooms or drinking water facilities; there is one restroom located at the Hunter Check Station on the McCormack Unit off of Paterson Ferry Road. Refuge visitors should plan their trips accordingly.
Lodging is available in Boardman, Umatilla and Hermiston, Oregon. Camping facilities in Oregon are available at the Boardman Marina. In Washington, camping facilities are available at Crow Butte State Park. Gasoline, supermarkets and restaurants are located in Boardman, Irrigon, Umatilla and Hermiston, Oregon.
Other Facilities in the Complex
Rules and Policies
There are lots of fun, interesting and educational things you can do on the refuge. 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 this activity. Please check with refuge management, or consult our publications, before participating in an activity that could harm the environment or yourself. There are plenty of other activities on Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge for you to enjoy. Be safe and have fun!
Although a lot of wildlife-dependent activities are allowed on Umatilla NWR, we do have to let you know what isn't allowed and what special rules and regulations apply.
Umatilla NWR Access & General Regulations
- Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge is open from sunrise to sunset, except for hunting. Hunters are allowed access from 1-1/2 hours before sunrise to 1-1/2 hours after sunset. The gates on the McCormack Unit auto tour route automatically open at dawn and close at dusk.
- Parking is allowed in designated parking areas only. No overnight parking is allowed on the refuge.
- The use of unmanned aircraft or drones on the refuge is prohibited.
- Camping is not permitted on the refuge.
- Hiking is allowed along roads open to vehicle traffic and other designated hiking areas of the refuge.
- Bicycling and horseback riding are permitted only on roads that are open to motor vehicles. They are not allowed on trails or roads closed to vehicles.
- Most refuge islands are closed to public entry year round.
- Boating is allowed on most of the Columbia River portions of the refuge and backwaters. Boats are not allowed on McCormack Slough, except to retrieve birds during the legal hunting season.
- No dogs off-leash.
- No off-road vehicles.
- Collecting of plants, animals, minerals, antlers and artifacts is prohibited.
- Firearms and other weapons are subject to state law. At all times, persons possessing, transporting, or carrying firearms on the refuge must comply with all provisions of state law. Firearms may only be discharged in accordance with refuge hunting regulations, i.e., only during the lawful pursuit of game during legal seasons. Only shotguns are permitted for hunting and only with non-toxic shot.
Umatilla NWR Fishing Access & Regulations
McCormack Unit: Fishing is permitted at the gravel ponds adjacent to the auto tour route. The McCormack Slough is not open to fishing.
Paterson Unit: Bank fishing permitted in open areas along the Columbia River and in the slough.
Boardman, Ridge and Whitcomb Island Units: Bank fishing permitted in open areas along the Columbia River.
Umatilla NWR Hunting Regulations
- Waterfowl (duck, goose and coot), snipe, deer and upland gamebird hunting are permitted on the refuge during the regular Oregon/Washington hunting seasons in public hunting areas designated on the refuge map. Waterfowl hunting and the first weekend of upland game bird hunting on the McCormack Unit involve a lottery run by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The lottery is open from mid-August through the second week in September. However, daily on-site lotteries are held for spaces made available by no-shows.
- Deer hunting is permitted on portions of the refuge with a state-issued permit. For Washington, this includes the Paterson and Whitcomb Units; Oregon issues permits for the McCormack Unit (please see the respective state web sites for the application process).
- No trapping of any kind is allowed on Umatilla NWR.
Enjoying Umatilla Refuge is a self-guided experience, there are no visitor centers or staffed contact points. The main refuge entrance, located on the McCormack Unit, is located 10 miles south of I-84 at the end of Paterson Ferry Road. Parking is allowed in designated parking areas only. The Boardman Unit can be accessed from the Tower Road Exit (Exit 158) off of I-84. The Whitcomb Island, Ridge and Paterson Units can all be accessed from Washington State Highway 14. Please access the refuge only from designated public access areas.