Facility Rules and Policies

Biologist and author Rachel Carson urged the public to watch for "the sign of the flying goose - the emblem of the National Wildlife Refuge System...

Wherever you meet this sign, respect it.  It means that the land behind the sign has been dedicated by the American people to preserving, for themselves and their children, as much of our native wildlife as can be retained along with our modern civilization."

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 rules governing this activity.  Please check with Refuge management before participating in an activity that could harm the environment or yourself.  There are plenty of activities at Waubay for you to enjoy.  Be safe and have fun! 

Certain regulations are necessary for the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat, and for the safety of visitors. Observance of these rules will help make the Refuge a better place for visitors and the wildlife they come to enjoy. The Wildlife Refuge Manager reserves the right to close all or part of the Refuge to hunting and/or public access at any time. Specific regulations will be posted. The Refuge is also subject to Federal, State, and local laws and regulations.

The Refuge is open daily from sunrise to sunset.  The Visitor Center is open from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday except during Federal holidays.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits under various wildlife law and treaties at a number of offices throughout the country.  Permits enable the public to engage in legitimate wildlife-related activities that would otherwise be prohibited by law.  Service permit programs ensure that such activities are carried out in a manner that safeguards wildlife.  Additionally, some permits promote conservation efforts by authorizing scientific research, generating data, or allowing wildlife management and rehabilitation activates to go forward.

Permits are handled by permitting programs in International Affairs (Management Authority), Endangered Species, Law Enforcement, and Migratory Birds.

Visit the National Wildlife Refuge System Web site for Special Use Permits.

For more detailed information, go to How to Obtain a Permit, FAQs/Facts or Application Forms.

Special Use Permits are required at Waubay NWR for haying, grazing, commercial photography, and research activities.  Other activities may also need a permit.  Please contact the Wildlife Refuge Manager for more information.


A series of passes covers the entrance and standard amenity fees charged for using federal recreational lands – including national wildlife refuges.

Existing Golden Eagle Passports and National Parks Passes with an expiration date will be honored until they expire. Paper versions of the Golden Age or Golden Access Passports should be exchanged for the new Senior or Access passes. However, plastic Golden Age or Access passes are valid for the pass holder's lifetime and do not need to be exchanged.

The Senior and Access passes are good for the lifetime of the holder and make available (to the pass holder only) 50 percent discounts on some expanded amenity fees.

For the first time, decals and hangtags are available: decals for those who park open-topped vehicles (like Jeeps) or motorcycles at unstaffed federal recreation sites, and hangtags for those who anticipate parking closed vehicles at unmanned facilities.

Please visit the National Wildlife Refuge System Web site for more information about passes.

Entrance to Waubay NWR is free.

Access & Parking

Motorized vehicles are permitted only on developed roads and parking areas.  Driving off-road or on roads closed by signs or barriers is prohibited.  Parking in front of gates, driveways, or buildings where not specifically marked otherwise is also prohibited.


 Hunting is permitted on the Refuge except for the area where Headquarters is located.  The hunting program is managed in accordance with Federal and State regulations.  Only deer may be hunted on Waubay NWR.  Refuge specific regulations also apply, and can be found at the Visitor Center and kiosks.


Persons possessing, transporting, or carrying firearms on National Wildlife Refuge System lands 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).  Discharge of a firearm for any reason other than the legal taking of game animals is prohibited.


Open water and ice fishing are allowed on all Refuge waters.  Ice fishing access is by foot, no motor vehicles are allowed on the ice.  The fishing program is managed in accordance with Federal and State regulations. Current Refuge specific regulations can be found at the Visitor Center and kiosks.


Anglers may launch non-motorized boats from boat access points for fishing, wildlife observation and access to islands for deer hunting.


Hiking is only allowed on designated trails.


Bicycling is permitted on the Refuge, but is restricted to established roads.  Bicycles are prohibited on all hiking trails.

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is not permitted.


 Overnight camping is not permitted.  All visitors must leave the Refuge at the end of each day.


No fires of any type are permitted within the Refuge.


Picnicking is allowed at tables located at the start of the boardwalk.  No fires or grills are allowed.  Please dispose of all trash properly.

Regulatory Signs

Please obey the following signs you may encounter at Waubay.

  • Refuge boundary sign

Vehicle, foot, or other travel beyond this sign is prohibited except during hunting seasons with a license.

  • Area Closed sign

No hunting is allowed in the area beyond this sign.

Additional information regarding hunting and fishing on the Refuge can be found on Visitor Activities.


Dogs and other pets must be leashed and under control at all times.