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Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Official Website:Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
Location:6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport,
Hours:Hours Vary see below
Cost:$ see below
Category:Parks & Nature
Other Ideas: Arnold Arboretum; Rose Kennedy Greenway; Massachusetts DCR State Parks; Appleton Farms; Middlesex Fells Reservation

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge occupies in part, the southern 3/4ths of Plum Island, an 8 mile (12.9 kilometer) barrier island, and offers excellent wildlife-oriented recreational and educational opportunities with visitor facilities and programs provided to enhance your experience.

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1942 primarily to provide feeding, resting, and nesting habitat for migratory birds. Located along the Atlantic Flyway, the refuge is of vital stopover significance to waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds during pre- and postbreeding migratory periods.

The refuge consists of 4,662 acres (1,883 hectares) of diverse upland and wetland habitats including sandy beach and dune, shrub/thicket, bog, swamp, freshwater marsh, salt marsh and associated creek, river, mud flat, and salt panne. These and other refuge habitats support varied and abundant populations of resident and migratory wildlife including more than 300 species of birds and additional species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and plants.

Wildlife-oriented interpretive programs and special events are periodically offered at the refuge. Many of these programs are wheelchair accessible.

Routine Refuge Closures
When the Plum Island section of the refuge fills to capacity, public entry is restricted for several hours. Plan on arriving early in the morning to avoid this inconvenience.

Each year the entire 6.3 miles (10.1 kilometers) of refuge beach is closed to all public entry beginning April 1 to provide undisturbed nesting and feeding habitat for the piping plover, a shorebird species threatened with extinction. Portions of the beach not being used by the birds may be reopened beginning July 1. Typically all sections are reopened by mid-late August.

When the refuge beach is open, ocean swimming is generally permitted. However treacherous undertows, currents, and heavy surf may be present and lifeguards are not provided. When in the water or walking the beach, always keep children within reach and never turn your back on the ocean!

During the warmer months at the refuge, mosquitoes and other biting insects can be very bothersome. Greenheads are aggressive, blood feeding horse flies that occur in large numbers from July through mid-August.Ticks are common on the refuge and can transmit Lyme disease and other serious human infections. They can be active year-round with some as small as the period at the end of this sentence. Wearing a hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long-legged pants will offer some protection as will the use of tick repellent according to label directions. Check yourself carefully for ticks during and after your visit. Light-colored clothing will allow you to detect a tick more easily.


Refuge open daily from sunrise to sunset but subject to temporary closures
Visitor center & exhibits are open 11am-4pm, 7 days a week
Office open Monday through Friday from 8:30am-4pm

See information below about routine closures.


A daily entrance fee of $5/car $2/walk or bike on is in effect year-round at the Plum Island section of the refuge. When the refuge entrance gatehouse is not staffed envelopes and an “iron ranger” pipe safe are available for fee deposition.

Annual passes are available for $20 at refuge headquarters and the entrance gatehouse when staffed.


6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport, map

Refuge headquarters is located at 6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport , MA, right before the bridge to Plum Island. It is directly across the road from the Massachusetts Audubon Joppa Flats Education Center.

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We make best efforts to update information, but it changes frequently, so we cannot warrant it. Please call to check Parker River National Wildlife Refuge schedules, fees, and directions before making the trek. We help you, please help us. Report an Error if you find one.

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