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7 Fun Visitor Activities at the Patuxent Research Refuge


Patuxent Research Refuge


The Patuxent Research Refuge has been around since 1936, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt created it with an executive order. One thing that makes the Patuxent Research Refuge so special is it’s the nation’s only national wildlife refuge established to support wildlife research.

Naturally, the Patuxent Research Refuge is an invaluable resource for education and preservation, but there’s so much more to enjoy about the area. Here are a few of our favorite things to do at the refuge:

1. Monarch Festival

September 19

This free festival celebrating the monarch butterfly offers education displays, educational displays, family friendly activities, games and crafts. This festival is a great introduction to all the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge is about.

2. Wildlife Festival

October 17

Enjoy live animals, children’s crafts, tram tours (tickets must be purchased), scientific demonstrations, and behind-the-scenes research tours of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. See where endangered Whooping Cranes and Sea Ducks are raised and studied.

3. Hunting

September – January
By Permit

That’s right—you can even do some hunting at the refuge. How? A wide range of hunting opportunities await the outdoor sports-person who ventures into the woods and fields of Patuxent Research Refuge. Opportunities include hunting for upland game, migratory game birds, white-tailed deer (bow, muzzleloader and shotgun).

Hunting is managed by refuge officials and the Meade Natural Heritage Association (MNHA) through a permit system.

4. Fishing

Hours vary by season and location

Fishing at the Patuxent Research Refuge provides the opportunity to encounter a variety of native species. Common species include bluegill, largemouth bass, catfish, black crappie, pickerel, eel, suckers, warmouth and pumpkinseed. Anglers may fish seasonally, mid-June to mid-October at Cash Lake, on the south tract of the refuge. Anglers may fish year-around (with some exceptions) in several locations at the North tract of the refuge.

5. Wildlife Viewing

Anyone willing to set out on foot can enjoy year-round hiking opportunities for viewing wildlife at the Patuxent Research Refuge.

Another great option is the Wildlife Conservation Tram Tour offered spring through fall. This half-hour guided tour travels through forest, meadows, and wetlands near the National Wildlife Visitor Center. Wildlife species that may be seen include deer, beaver, great blue heron, and many more.

Click here for a full list of refuge trails.

6. Photography

Whether hiking in the forested areas or along the lake shore, the Patuxent Research Refuge delights photographers looking for native species and natural habitats, whether they’re flora or fauna.
Bring a camera, and enjoy!

7. Visitors Center

The National Wildlife Visitor Center is a science and environmental education center providing visitors with opportunities to explore, discover, and learn.

Click here to see a full list of attractions at the visitor’s center.


Know Before You Go

The Patuxent Research Refuge lays out some important guidelines:

Visitors need to respect and obey refuge regulations to ensure their own safety and to ensure that wildlife have a place to live and thrive. In all cases, public access, use, or recreational activities not specifically permitted are prohibited. Please inquire at the North Tract Visitor Contact Station or National Wildlife Visitor Center to ensure your activity is permitted.

North Tract – Visitor Contact Station
230 Bald Eagle Drive
Laurel, MD 20724

Visitor Contact Center & Grounds Open Daily 8:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M.
Closed on Federal Holidays

South Tract – National Wildlife Visitor Center
10901 Scarlett Tanager Loop
Laurel, MD 20708

Vistor Center Building
Open Daily 9:00 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.
Closed on Thursdays
Closed on Federal Holidays

Wildlife Images Bookstore
Open Daily 11:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M.
Closed on Thursdays
Closed on Federal Holidays

Trails and Grounds
Open Daily Sunrise – Sunset
Closed on Federal Holidays

Cash Lake Fishing
April 1 – October 11, 2015
(Sunrise – Sunset)
Closed on Federal Holidays


To learn more about the area, check out our Vacation Guide. To book accommodations at the Wayside Inn, click here.

Photo Credit: Patuxent Research Refuge / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Headquarters / Flickr