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Rappahannock River Valley is one of three national wildlife refuges that comprise the Eastern Virginia Rivers National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The refuge was established in 1996 to conserve fish and wildlife habitat along this vital tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. We focus primarily on protecting and managing tidal and inland wetlands, and adjacent uplands, to benefit bald eagles, other migratory birds, and resident wildlife. In doing so, we contribute to the natural diversity of the mid-Atlantic region, which includes the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Some areas of the refuge, particularly grasslands, are managed intensively, while on most areas Mother Nature is the primary manager. Where necessary to maintain and improve the health and diversity of habitats, we may used prescribed fire, mowing, and other techniques to achieve desired results.
Many migratory bird species common, and some uncommon, to the Chesapeake Bay region can be seen on the refuge in their native habitats of pond, fields and woodlands. Over 200 species of birds have been observed on the refuge. White-tailed deer are abundant, and bald eagles are present year-round.
Wilna, Hutchinson, and Laurel Grove Units are open from sunrise to sunset unless posted.
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
There is no fee required to visit the refuge.
Hunting: Hunting on the refuge is offered by permit for white tailed deer only. The refuge allows stand hunting only and the use of hunting dogs is prohibited. We offer permits for two seasons of archery hunting, three days of muzzleloader hunting, and six days of shotgun hunting. Archery permits cost $25.00 per hunter per season and muzzleloader and shotgun permits cost $10.00 per hunter per day.
Fishing: Fishing is permitted in Wilna Pond Laurel Grove Pond, and from the pier at Hutchinson and is open year-round to the public. Wilna pond is a 35 acre freshwater home to largemouth bass, bluegill sunfish, fliers, yellow bullhead catfish, and American eel. Fishing is permitted from the pier or the bank, but not from the catwalk of the dam. The pond is also accessible to hand-launchable boats. The ten acre freshwater pond at Laurel Grove is accessible by hand-launchable boats or bank fishing from the dam. The Hutchinson tract borders scenic Mount Landing Creek shortly before it flows into the Rappahannock River. Fishing is only permitted from the pier.
Wildlife Viewing: Excellent wildlife viewing is offered seven days a week from sunrise to sunset at our Wilna, Hutchinson, and Laurel Grove Units (units closed during our permitted hunt days). A handicap accessible blind is located along one of the nature trails at the Wilna Unit and can be reserved for wildlife observation. This trail also offers a raised platform overlooking one of the unit’s grassland habitats.
Interpretation: The refuge hosts Go Wild, an annual festival to celebrate conservation, on the third Sunday in May at the Hutchinson Unit. The event includes kids programs, nature walks, conservation exhibitors, free raffles, and much more.
The refuge offers its annual Kids Fish Day event on the first Saturday in June. The event is open to children ages 4 to 12 and offers fishing clinics and a morning of fishing in Wilna pond. A raffle is held during the event and prizes are awarded for different categories regarding the fishing tournament.
Environmental Education: The refuge is proud to have environmental education sites at the Wilna Pond Outdoor Classroom (Richmond County) and the Hutchinson tract (Essex County). Both areas feature classroom sites (pond/creek, grassland, woodland habitats), fully accessible fishing piers, and accessible trails. Interpretive programs are also offered to groups, providing we have staff available to accommodate the request and by advanced reservation only.
Photography: Although bald eagles can be found on the refuge all year, the months of December, January, and February provide the best opportunity to view a large amount of wintering eagles. During the breeding season (May/June/July) Louisiana waterthrush, ovenbird, worm-eating warblers, yellow-throated vireo, wood thrush, scarlet tanager, chuck-will’s widow, whip-poor-will, eastern towhee, and brown thrasher are frequently observed.