U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Learn about camping and boondocking at National Wildlife Refuges

Camping at National Wildlife Refuges

Camping at National Wildlife Refuges


The National Wildlife Refuge system includes some 560 designated refuge units across the United States. Many of these are off limits to the public, but many others are open to recreation to some lesser or greater extent. Camping at National Wildlife Refuges is limited to just a handful of refuges, but many are free and not very crowded.

camping national wildlife refuge
Camping at Lake 13, Maxwell NWR, New Mexico

Camping at National Wildlife Refuges

Of the 560 National Wildlife Refuges, only a small fraction allow RV camping. Some of these refuges have developed campgrounds with marked spaces, fire rings, picnic tables, and even hookups. But others allow camping on a dispersed basis, allowing you to camp wherever you want, as long as you abide by certain rules on where to camp and not to camp.

Some of these campgrounds are better described as “campsites” because they are only large enough for one vehicle. It’s best to click on the GPS coordinates in the list below and view them on satellite imagery to get a better idea of how big they are, and how easy/difficult they are to access.

Fee or Free?

Some refuges contract the administration of campgrounds to other agencies or private businesses. In these cases, there are fees associated with camping. In cases where camping is administered by the Refuge, camping is generally free.

Some refuges may charge a fee to enter the refuge. The good news is that all refuges accept the Interagency Pass, including the Access Pass, the Senior Pass, and the Military Pass.

How Long Can You Camp?

Once you get in, camping is limited to 14-days within a 30-day period.

List of Refuges That Allow Motorized Camping

Note: These are all campgrounds that can be accessed by driving a vehicle to. Some of these are just single campsites, and some are small enough that large RVs and long trailers may have difficulty. All sites listed here have been verified through official Refuge staff and literature both printed and online…

Rules for RV Boondocking on National Wildlife Refuges

Driving – Must drive only on established roads marked with signs. You are not allowed to drive over brush, animal habitats, or other natural features. Laws of the state in which the refuge is located take precedence. Refer to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service rule, “§ 27.31 General provisions regarding vehicles”.

Collection Animals, Plants, and Artifacts – A permit is required harvest plants, collect artifacts, and animals. Refer to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service rule, “§ 27.21 General provisions”.

Campfires – Campfires are limited to only areas and containers specifically marked for campfires. Refer to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service rule, “§ 27.95 Fires”.

Other National Wildlife Refuges That Allow Camping

These refuges allow camping, but make it difficult for RVs, cars, and vans to enter…

  • Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (AK) – Camping is allowed all throughout the refuge, however there are no roads. All camping must be done via foot, boat, plane, or snowmobile (in winter).
  • Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge (LA) – Camping is allowed along riverbanks, but there are little to no roads, and the area is heavily wooded. Most camping is done via boat. You can tent camp on foot too.

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