Dates apply to 30 refuges that charge for admittance; nearly 500 other refuges are free year-round

Across America, national wildlife refuges offer unparalleled opportunities to experience the great outdoors amid scenic beauty. And they do it on awe-inducing landscapes that range from Oregon’s rocky cliffs to Texas lagoons, from Maine wilderness to woods and fields inside the city of Philadelphia. Thirty refuges that normally charge entrance fees will offer free admission on these days in 2019:

  • January 21 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 18 – Presidents’ Day
  • September 28 – National Public Lands Day
  • October 13 – First Sunday of National Wildlife Refuge Week
  • November 11 – Veterans Day
These refuges charge admission ranging from $3 to $8 per vehicle to help fund their recreation-related projects. The 2019 entrance fee waiver does not cover concessionaire or permit fees for some activities such as hunting, fishing or special tours. Every state and U.S. territory has at least one national wildlife refuge, there is and one within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas. Use the online zip code locator to find one close to you.

“National wildlife refuges provide habitat for species as diverse as bison, whooping cranes and monarch butterflies. They also provide unique places to hunt, fish, observe nature and simply enjoy the outdoors,” said Refuge System Chief Cynthia Martinez. “Wildlife refuges also provide green space to the millions of Americans who live in urban areas. If you have never visited a national wildlife refuge, these fee-free days offer perfect opportunities to see what you’ve been missing.”

The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the world’s largest network of conservation lands, encompassing 567 refuges and 38 wetland management districts. Nearly 500 national wildlife refuges and wetland management districts are open to the public, hosting some 53 million visits every year – almost all offering free admittance year-round.

Have you tuned in yet? Watch the new Animal Planet show highlighting two of Alaska’s premier national wildlife refuges — Kenai Refuge and Kodiak Refuge. The 10-part series, titled “Into Alaska,” airs Mondays through December 24, 2018. Watch thrilling up-close encounters with brown bears, moose and salmon. See aerial views of spectacular landscapes reachable only by air, boat or foot. Episodes air at 10 p.m. Eastern Time and Alaska Time, or check local listings.

Refuges also do more than conserve wildlife and provide outdoor recreation: they help protect against erosion and flooding and purify our air and water. Refuges generate $2.4 billion per year and more than 35,000 jobs to regional economies.

Other federal land management agencies that will offer fee-free days in 2019 include: National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Forest Service. Please contact each for details.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service also participate in the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass and Federal Recreational Lands Pass programs. These passes grant access to more than 2,000 national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, grasslands and other federal lands that provide a wide variety of nature-based recreational opportunities for the American public.

These passes are available:

  • Free annual pass to current military members and their dependents.
  • Free lifetime pass for people with permanent disabilities.
  • $80 lifetime senior pass for those aged 62 and over.
  • $80 annual pass for the general public.
  • Free annual pass for volunteers who accrue 250 hours and who do not already have a valid interagency pass.
  • Every Kid in a Park: Free annual pass valid for the school year, September to August, for duration of the 4th grade year. Covers students and their families.
Learn how you can buy a pass.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.


Photo: Wading birds at J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Credit: George Gentry/USFWS