Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region
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Wildlife Photography

Credit: USFWS

Credit: USFWS

Like all National Wildlife Refuges, Wheeler has almost an endless variety of natural wonders that can be photographed. Sunrises and sunsets can be spectacular, especially when reflected on water bodies such as Limestone Bay or the Tennessee River. In the early fall, fog rises from the river adding a feeling of mystery to sunrise images.

About 285 species of birds occur on the refuge during the year. Large species such as the Great Blue Heron and Great Egret can be photographed with medium focal length lenses, in the range of 300 mm, if the photographer is careful in his approach. Smaller species will require fast lenses (usually f2.8 to f4) in the 400-600 mm range. These permit the photographer to “shoot” in the early morning or late afternoon when birds are most active and get close enough to photograph smaller birds without disturbance. Various species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates also make interesting subjects. In addition, there is a large variety of plants species that make photography fun.

Wildflowers, along with visiting butterflies, hummingbirds, and other wildlife can make colors come alive. A variety of habitats are scenes just waiting for the photographer’s distinguishing eye- examples include bright fall colors, tree reflections in still waters, and ice patterns with the sun sparkling from the crystals. Of course, people pursuing a number of outdoor activities can be captured on film.

Currently, the Refuge has one permanent blind near the observation pond. This fully enclosed blind is located in a closed area and maybe reserved by special use permit. Contact the visitor center for more information.

Temporary blinds are permitted (see regulations below) and many subjects are available without the use of a blind.

There is a subject available for any type of photography equipment, even point-and-shoot cameras. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and capture prized subjects on film that can be “blown up” and proudly displayed on your walls.


Photography Links:



Non-commercial photography is permitted in areas of the refuge that are open to the public. Refuge signs will notify individuals of closed areas. No permanent blinds are allowed. Blinds must be removed each day. Photographers must follow other general refuge regulations, such as not removing any plants and animals.

A Special Use Permit is required for any commercial photography conducted on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. This type of permit can be obtained at the Refuge Office. Detailed information regarding the proposed activity must be submitted so Refuge personnel can determine if the activity can be approved and what type of restrictions are required.


Last updated: June 9, 2009