Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Great Bay NWR is always on the lookout for new volunteers!

The refuge contains a diversity of habitat types. Present habitat consists of forested uplands (55%), open grasslands (19%), shrub (13%), fresh water (6%), forested wetlands (4%), and salt marsh (3%).

This diversity supports a wide range of wildlife, including the largest concentration of wintering American black ducks in New Hampshire. Bald eagles winter along the generally open waters of Great Bay and frequently perch along the shoreline.

Topography is flat to gently rolling. The Refuge slopes down toward the west with the highest elevation of 100 feet (msl). Six miles of intertidal shoreline comprise the western boundary with The Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The Refuge also administers a 28 acre Conservation Easement in Concord, NH for the endangered Karner blue butterfly.

Management Programs

Habitat restoration has been the major thrust of recent management efforts at Great Bay Refuge. Other habitat management includes mowing to control vegetation encroachment and maintain habitat status; presribed burning to encourage vegetation development for the Karner Blue Butterfly and reduced litter (dead vegetation build up); and water level manipulation to encourage aquatic vegetation growth desirable for the benefit of waterfowl, shorebirds and alewife. Several wildlife surveys are conducted on the refuge: shorebird, landbird, waterfowl, and breeding bird surveys. Waterfowl banding is conducted by the State of New Hampshire on the refuge. Biological control of exotic vegetation such as purple loosestrife is also utilized at Great Bay Refuge.

The refuge area plays a significant role as migration and wintering habitat for the federally protected bald eagle. It also provides prime migration habitat for the peregrin falcon. Many state-protected threatened species use Great Bay Refuge and adjacent waters, including the common loon, pied-billed grebe, osprey, common tern, and northern harrier. Additionally, the bay and refuge lands serve as the major wintering habitat for black ducks in New Hampshire. The open bay and inter-tidal area adjacent to the shoreline supports migratory populations of greater and lesser scaup, red-breasted mergansers, Canadian geese, goldeneye, brant and oldsquaw. Wading birds such as herons and egrets use the mudflats and salt marsh creeks extensively for feeding, as do semi-palmated plovers, sandpipers, dowtichers, and greater and lesser yellowlegs. Turkey and white-tailed deer are common species on the refuge as well.


The National Wildlife Refuge System is working to ensure that facilities and programs are accessible to visitors. Please contact the refuge office for information about accessibility at this unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The office of Great Bay Refuge is open year-round (except major holidays), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. The trails are open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. Two trails lead from the refuge parking area, the Peverly Pond Trail and the Ferry Way Trail. *The refuge is closed to public use other than hunting during the two-day hunt in November (dates vary).

The refuge offers a limited deer hunt in November, usually on the first weekend following the opening day of deer season. Forty hunters will be selected through a permit/fee system (20 per day), and the fee is $20.00 for those selected for the hunt. Applications are generally available at the beginning of September. Eighty percent of the funds collected are returned to the refuge to help off-set the cost of the hunt program. Waterfowl hunting along the shore of Great Bay is also permitted with access from the Bay only. Refuge specific regulations apply in addition to New Hampshire State regulations. Call or stop by the Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge office for hunt details.

Additional opportunities exist at the Karner Blue Butterfly Refuge (a satellite of Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge) where a 1/4 mile walking trail exists.


To access the trails and office, take exit 1 off the Spaulding Turnpike northbound and follow signs to the Pease International Tradeport. Follow Great Bay Refuge signs on into the refuge. Two trails lead from the refuge parking area, the Peverly Pond Trail and the Ferry Way Trail.

The Karner Blue Butterfly Refuge is located on 28 acres in the pine barrens of Concord Airport in New Hampshire.

100 Merrimac Drive
Newington, NH 03801
Phone (603) 431-7511
Fax (603) 431-6014

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 13 Sep 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

  • Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge Travel Q&A

  • What's your favorite hike? Where's the best campsite? Join the conversation! Ask Your Question

park finder
step one
Where are you going?

step one
What do you want to do?

+ More Activities

Receive Gear Reviews, Articles & Advice

Preview this newsletter »


Parks Near Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge
GEARZILLA: The Gorp Gear Blog


Ask Questions