Plan your visit to Ottawa Refuge.
Visitor Center and Tours
The Visitor Center has suspended operations due to a Level 3 Public Emergency.
For more information about how the refuge makes the decision to close the Visitor Center, please download the information sheet below.
Use this interactive map to help you find public access points in the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Click the icon on the top left corner to view information layers including Refuge Properties & Friends Acquisitions, Facilities, Hiking Trails, Observation Decks, Wildlife Drive, Paddle Access, Fishing & Hunting Access, eBird Hotspots & Wildlife Sightings. View in full screen or open with Maps on your smart phone to access directions from your location.
Trails and Hiking Information
Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge has miles of paved, boardwalk, gravel, and earthen trails. To view the trail map for the main complex and satellite properties, please follow this link. Dogs are allowed on all trails (must be leashed and under control of the owner). Bicycles are also allowed on all trails.
No matter the season, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is a photographer's dream. Sunrises and sunsets seem to go on for days providing ample opportunity for time lapse photography and landscape shots. A Wildlife Window is behind the Visitor Center allowing a close-up view of feeder birds and marsh birds such as egrets and herons. A photo blind on the hiking trails offers protection and shots of waterfowl, most frequently featuring wood ducks. The Wildlife Drive is an excellent way to shoot different habitats without having to walk far. The refuge has a team of local photographers who frequently share their nature shots in the Friends of Ottawa NWR Photo Club group. Please join and share the refuge through your eyes and feel free to ask questions about our local crew's favorite places to set up. Also, be sure to check out the annual Photo Contest, open to all photos taken on public lands!
There are several locations on the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Complex for recreational water access. Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge (seasonally) and West Harbor Landing are two local favorites. Check out this page for more information about where you can paddle on the refuge. Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is part of the planned Portage River Water Trail, so be on the lookout for more information in 2021!
Hunting and fishing access have been increasing at the refuge over the past several years as it has been determined a priority by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge has a controlled waterfowl, deer, and youth hunt program each fall. There are also public hunting areas that have yielded deer, waterfowl, and turkey. Information about hunting on the refuge may be found here.
Fishing is allowed in designated ﬁshing areas in accordance with State regulations, seasons, and harvest limits. The refuge prohibits the take of any turtle, frog, leech, minnow, crayﬁsh, and mussel species by any method. Only catch and release ﬁshing is allowed at the visitor center pond. Fishing is permitted from legal sunrise to legal sunset. Anglers must remove all boats, ice ﬁshing structures, devices, and personal property from the refuge each day. Crane Creek and Crane Creek Estuary are closed to all boats and ﬂotation devices from State Route 2 to the mouth of Crane Creek at Lake Erie. Fishing line recycling stations are provided at all ﬁshing areas. Please follow “Leave No Trace” principles and do not leave trash along shorelines as wildlife can become entangled and die. For more information about fishing on the refuge, click here.
Birds and Bird Migration
Each year, thousands of bird watchers visit the refuge. For this reason we have created a special list of resources including the Timing of Bird Migration, our favorite Spring Birding Spots on the refuge, and a list of recent sightings including information from the eBird tracker. Also be sure to check out our Wildlife Observation and Birding Tips and the event calendar for additional scheduled birding activities. The Birding Checklist may also guide your visit. We also highly recommend purchasing a copy of the Lake Erie Birding Trail Guidebook for other hidden gems in the area!
Wildlife Drive Information
The refuge sometimes opens restricted areas to the public in the form of a Wildlife Drive. This drive is open from sunrise to sunset on selected days. Please view the events page for more information. Research has shown that vehicle traffic is less intrusive to wildlife populations when compared to people interacting with nature outside of their vehicles, therefore pedestrian traffic including bicycles is prohibited on the Wildlife Drive. You may step out of your vehicle at designated pull-off locations to take a photo, use binoculars or set up a scope for wildlife observation. The Wildlife Drive map and a virtual tour may be found here.
Know Your Signs
Throughout the refuge, you will see a variety of signs from informational kiosks to boundary signs. Please check out the sign page to help keep yourself safe during your visit.
Barn Quilt Trail
Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge became part of the Ottawa County Barn Quilt Trail in 2019 with the addition of our wildlife-themed quilt placed on the white barn at the refuge entrance. This quilt has special meaning for us as our late board member, Kathy Booher was one of the masterminds behind the county barn quilt trail. Take a day trip and visit all of the barn quilts in the county.