Using the Refuges

During this time when many places are closed and social distancing is encouraged, Assabet River, Oxbow and Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuges are open for visitors to spend time outdoors on the trails. Refuge Management will continue to assess conditions and adjust operations as necessary to ensure the safety of visitors while protecting natural resources.

The public facilities, including the Visitor Center, Nature Store and outdoor restrooms, will remain closed until it is deemed safe to reopen.

The Refuges are open year round from sunrise to sunset. Wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities, including hiking, photography, interpretation, and environmental education, are permitted on designated trails shown on the refuge maps.

Currently no fees are charged for use of the refuges. The trails and parking areas are available free of charge.

Guidelines for Visiting

Please follow these guidelines when visiting the Refuge:

  • Practice safe social distancing on trails and allow 6ft when passing others on trails; follow all CDC guidelines (prevent-getting-sick).
  • Stay on designated trails and out of "Closed" areas. This is to protect you and the habitat and prevent the spread of invasive species. You must get a special permit from the refuge staff to go off the trails.
  • The disturbance, destruction, or removal of wildlife, vegetation and facilities are prohibited.
  • Pack in and pack out: There are no trashcans on the refuges and we ask you to please take your trash with you.
  • No pets or horses are allowed. Please leave your pets at home to protect wildlife and their habitats. Certified service animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities are permitted on trails as long as they are under the direct control of their owner at all times and all feces is removed from the site.
  • There are no picnic areas or campsites. Camping and campfires are not allowed.
  • Bicycles are allowed on the Assabet River refuge only and on a very limited number of trails. All cyclists entering the Refuge should check in at the kiosks at the entrances in order to obtain information about which trails are open to bikes, speed limits, and other restrictions.
  • Motorized vehicles are restricted to the parking area and its access road only. Park in designated parking areas. If parking lots are full, please continue on.
  • Motorized boats are not allowed. Canoes and kayaks are allowed on rivers and streams but not in ponds and pools such as Puffer Pond.
  • Launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft (drones) within the refuge is prohibited.

Hunting and Fishing

Fishing and hunting are allowed subject to refuge regulations, State and Federal laws and permit restrictions.

Fishing is allowed in rivers and streams and at Puffer Pond on the handicap-accessible fishing pier on the Sandbank Trail and at the Barron Fishing Access Site on the Puffer Pond trail. All anglers must comply with Massachusetts State fishing regulations . Use of live bait is permitted, with the exception of amphibians and reptiles. Watercraft, swimming, ice fishing, cross-country skiing are prohibited . Catch and release only.

Hunting is allowed only during regulated periods and requires a refuge hunt permit. The most intense hunt period is during the shotgun deer season late November and/or into December. Most other times, hunt pressure is generally light. There is no hunting on Sundays. For information on the hunting seasons please refer to information in the kiosks or on the refuges' websites. (See Assabet River Hunting, Oxbow Hunting, Great Meadows Hunting for current hunting information.)