Using the Refuge
The Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge is one of the nation's newest wildlife refuges. The refuge is located approximately 20 miles west of Boston in portions of the towns of Hudson, Maynard, Stow and Sudbury. It is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and administered by the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex Office located in the Great Meadows NWR, 73 Weir Hill Road Sudbury.
The Fish and Wildlife Service's information about the refuge can be found here: Assabet River NWR. Information about all the National Wildlife Refuges in Eastern Massachusetts cab be found here: Eastern Massachusetts NWR.
The US Fish & Wildlife Service administers and manages the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWR). The National Wildlife Refuge System, is the world's premier system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife and plants. Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida's Pelican Island as the first wildlife refuge in 1903, the System has grown to more than 150 million acres, 550 national wildlife refuges and other units of the Refuge System, plus 37 wetland management districts. Refuges offer a wide variety of recreational opportunities, and many have visitor centers, wildlife trails, and environmental education programs. Nationwide, over 34 million visitors annually hunt, fish, observe and photograph wildlife, or participate in interpretive activities on national wildlife refuges. For more on the refuge system, see www.fws.gov/refuges/.
The Assabet River NWR
The Assabet River refuge comprises over 2,333 acres of varied woodland, wetland, fields, ponds and streams, with historical and archaeological sites. It is divided into a 1,900-acre northern section, a 300-acre southern section, and 91 acres scattered along the Assabet River in Stow. The terrain is primarily flat but includes some prominent hills; elevations range from 170 feet near the river to 320 feet on Walnut Hill. Seventy percent of the refuge is forested with pine, oak and maple. There are over 470 acres of diverse wetland habitat including an Atlantic white cedar swamp. This jewel is connected to about 1,000 acres of other diverse protected space.
To date, biological surveys have identified over 650 plant species, 135 bird species, 25 mammals, 17 reptile species and 19 species of fish. More details on the species and ecology of the refuge can be found in the Refuge's comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) available at AssabetFinalCCP.pdf.
Access to the refuge is through the main entrance off Hudson Road in Sudbury and from the north entrance on White Pond Road in Stow. See here for directions.Assabet River NWR Boundary Map
Currently no fees are charged for use of the refuge. The trails and parking areas are available free of charge.
The Refuge is open year round from one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset. Wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities, including hiking, photography, interpretation, and environmental education, are permitted on designated trails shown on the refuge map. Note that the trail system in the refuge was reworked in spring 2007.
The large wetland complex and the contiguous forested areas found here today are important feeding and breeding areas for migratory birds. The refuge is also the protected home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Keep in mind that the primary purpose of the Refuge is the protection of wildlife habitat. Wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities, including wildlife observation, photography, interpretation, and environmental education, are permitted on designated trails shown on this map.
As people are the visitors here, please respect the following rules:
- Stay on the designated trails. You must get a special permit from the refuge staff to go off the trails.
- Bicycles are allowed on the refuge 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.
- Canoes, kayaks, and motorized boats are not allowed on Puffer Pond.
- There are no picnic areas or campsites on the refuge. Camping is not permitted.
- Refuge lands are closed to horses and motorized vehicles.
- Dogs are not allowed on the refuge.
- Launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft (drones)within the refuge is prohibited.
- We are a pack it in, pack it out "Leave No Trace" refuge. Please help us keep the refuge clean by bringing home your trash.
- No picking or disturbing wildlife or vegetation please.
Fishing and hunting are allowed subject to refuge regulations, State and Federal laws and permit restrictions. Fishing is allowed at Puffer Pond on Puffer Pond Trail at the Barron Fishing Access Site. Hunting is allowed only during regulated periods and requires a refuge hunt permit. The most intense hunt period is during the shotgun deer season. Most other times, hunt pressure is generally light. For information on the hunting seasons please refer to information in the kiosks or on the refuge website. (See Assabet River Hunting for current hunting information.)
For more information about the Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex, please refer to Fish and Wildlife Service's brochure. Download brochure (pdf file, .6mb). Download brochure in Spanish (pdf file, .6mb)
The Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex
The Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge is part of a larger complex of refuges in Eastern Massachusetts.
- The Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex is part of some 19 communities - Assabet River NWR in Sudbury, Stow, Maynard and Hudson; Great Meadows NWR in Sudbury, Wayland, Lincoln, Concord, Carlisle, Bedford and Billerica; Mashpee NWR in Mashpee and Falmouth; Massasoit NWR in Plymouth; Monomoy NWR in Chatham; Nantucket NWR in Nantucket; Nomans Land Island NWR off Martha's Vineyard in Chilmark; Oxbow NWR in Harvard, Ayer and Shirley.
- In our neighborhood 20 - 35 miles west and north west of Boston we have three NWRs Great Meadows, Assabet River and Oxbow. They total over 7,500 acres (Great Meadows 3,600 acres, Assabet River 2,300 acres and Oxbow 1,667 acres).
- The 29 mile stretch of the Sudbury River flowing through Great Meadows NWR and Assabet and Concord Rivers in out vicinity are designated as "National Wild and Scenic River" These rivers are recognized for their outstanding ecology, history, scenery, recreation values, and place in American literature. The rivers are managed by the National Park Service in cooperation with the SuAsCo River Stewardship Council, which includes members from local towns, state government, and advocacy groups.
- In some of our communities the NWRs form a large proportion of towns lands - Assabet River NWR consists of large parts of the town of Maynard and Stow. In Sudbury, two NWRs Assabet River and Great Meadows take up a large proportion of town lands. In addition, the US Fish and Wildlife HQ in Eastern MA is located on Weir Hill, Great Meadows on Sudbury town land as well as the new Visitor center on Hudson Road. The Friends have prepared a series of maps that can be viewed on our website.
- As cited in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service home page "Currently the the National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the world's premier system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife and plants. Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida's Pelican Island as the first wildlife refuge in 1903, the System has grown to more than 150 million acres, 553 national wildlife refuges and other units of the Refuge System, plus 38 wetland management districts.
For more information about the Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex, please refer to Fish and Wildlife Service's brochure. Download brochure (pdf file, .6mb).