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Occoquan Bay
National Wildlife Refuge

Refuge Location: 13950 Dawson Beach Rd, Woodbridge, VA 22191
Headquarters Office: 12638 Darby Brooke Ct
Woodbridge, VA   22192
E-mail: potomacriverrefuges@fws.gov
Phone Number: 703-490-4979
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Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Occoquan Bay NWR was established in 1998 and is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Occoquan Rivers. This 644 acre refuge was previously a military research site and is part of the Potomac River NWR Complex. The refuge has a unique mix of wetlands, forest, and native grasslands that provides a diversity of habitats for wide variety of species. Wetland habitats cover about 50% of the refuge and include wet meadows, bottomland hardwoods, open freshwater marsh, and tidally influenced marshes and streams. Upland meadows and mature oak-hickory-beech forest are interspersed among the wetlands. The unusual number and interspersion of habitats provides visitors a unique opportunity to view a wide variety of wildlife species and habitats in a relatively small area. Noted for its grassland nesting birds, neo-tropical migrants and raptors, the refuge also hosts wildlife common to Virginia. Over 220 species of birds, over 600 species of plants, and 65 species of butterflies have been documented on the refuge. Many of the bird species are uncommon or rare in the region. Spring and fall are great times to observe migrating Neotropical and raptors. No pets allowed on refuge.

For current refuge information please visit the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge website at: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/occoquan_bay/

Getting There . . .
Located in Woodbridge, Virginia, 20 miles south of Washington D.C. From the north: take I-95 south to exit 161 (Woodbridge), follow Rt 1 south, cross the Occoquan River, turn left at light onto Dawson Beach Rd. Follow road to end. From the south: take I-95 north to exit 156 (Rippon Blvd). Continue to Rt. 1 and turn left. Go north on Rt 1 several miles and turn right onto Dawson Beach Rd. Follow road to the end.

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Wildlife and Habitat

The Refuge is a one of the largest remaining open spaces in Northern Virginia. With one square mile of grasslands and tidal marshes, the refuge serves as critical habitat for migratory birds. Over 200 species of birds and 600 species of plants have been identified on this site. These numbers continue to grow as researchers and biologists study ways of perpetuating the grasslands by means such as mowing and the application of prescribed burning. The open landscape provides excellent viewing of raptors and the abundant white-tailed deer. Some of the refuges interesting birds include the woodcock, meadowlark, snipe, Northern harrier, savanna sparrow, yellow warbler, orchard oriole and great horned owl.

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The landscape of this refuge has been maintained as grasslands and farm fields for almost 300 years. Native Americans and early European landowners operated fisheries sites along the Occoquan River adjacent to the refuge to exploit the abundant shad and herring. But farming was the mainstay of the landowners through the 1940's. In the 1950's the US Army purchased the site known as Deephole Farm for the construction of the East Coast Radio Transmitting Station. The vast and relatively treeless landscape provided the ideal setting for transmitting and receiving radio messages. The Army modified the mission of the radio station during the cold war to include electromagnetic pulse research. The openness of the site would remain an asset when, in the 1970's large poles with spindle shaped emitters strung between were erected on the site to enable researchers to test the effects of electromagnetic energy on military and communications hardware. The Army transferred the site to the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998.

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    Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Wildlife Observation
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Management Activities
The management program on the refuge focuses on the grasslands and grassland nesting birds. The refuge uses a combination of mowing and burning to maintain the grasslands, reduce woody vegetation, combat invasive species, and to reduce ground litter. Selected areas are mowed or burned each year to provide several stages of grassland growth for a wide diversity of bird species. The refuge has implemented a managed hunt for white-tailed deer to reduce the population size, reduce impacts on vegetation, and improved herd health. A migration, survival and production (MAPS) bird banding site is operated on the refuge each year.

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