Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge

North Carolina

(252) 429-3100

Map Directions

Things To Do


Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1960 to provide habitat for migratory waterfowl, primarily the greater snow goose. Located between Back Bay in Virginia and the Currituck Sound in NC, the refuge is comprised primarly of marsh habitat. This area has long been recognized for supporting significant migratory waterfowl populations and sport fishery resources. The refuge is strategically located along the Atlantic Flyway, making it an important wintering area for ducks, geese, and tundra swans. At times, flocks of over 12,000 snow geese may be observed on the refuge after their arrival in November. Many other wildlife species such as wading birds, shorebirds, raptors, neotropical migrants, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians use refuge habitats for food, cover, and nesting. A pair of bald eagles also nest on the refuge. About 74 percent of the refuge is slightly brackish marsh habitat, dominated by cattails, black needlerush, and giant cordgrass. The remaining habitat includes farmland, marsh impoundments, brush and typical upland and lowland Eastern pine-hardwood forest. Vegetation in these areas includes loblolly pine, sweet gum, black gum, cypress, red maple, hickory, and oak.

Map of Mackay Island NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 36.495976, -75.968399



  • Boating

    A small boat ramp, located near the dike gate on Mackay Island Road, is also available for access into the marshes. All refuge waters, ponds, canals and bays are closed to boating from October 16 through March 14 each year.

  • Fishing

    Sport fishing for largemouth bass, catfish, bream and other species is allowed in all canals, bays, and ponds from March 15 through October 15 each year. The refuge impoundments (East Pool, Middle Pool, and West Pool) are open to bank fishing only.

  • Hiking

    The Great Marsh Trail (0.3 mile loop), provides a scenic journey through a swamp-like habitat and is home to a variety of songbirds, small mammals, reptiles, and other creatures. The Kuralt Trail Overlook provides an elevated platform for an excellent view of the Great Marsh. The Mackay Island and Live Oak Point Trails (roads and trails around the impoundments) also provide good wildlife observation opportunities.

  • Hunting

    Public deer hunting by shotgun, muzzleloading rifle/shotgun, and bow is permitted on the Refuge. A signed Refuge hunt permit and a valid State hunting license shall be carried when hunting deer on the Refuge.

Park Partners

Friends of Mackay Island

The mission of the Friends of Mackay Island is to support and help Mackay Island and Currituck National Wildlife Refuges in the areas of conservation management as well as natural resource and habitat restoration.

(877) 851-0151



Mackay Island NWR is located near Knotts Island, NC. From Princess Anne Road in Virginia Beach, VA, travel south. Once in NC, this road is called NC Highway 615 South. The office entrance road is located on the right about 1 mile south of the state line. The refuge may also be reached by taking the free ferry from Currituck, NC. Once on Knotts Island, you can reach the office entrance road by traveling 9.2 miles on NC Highway 615 North. The ferry has a 45-minute crossing time, and leaves Currituck, NC at 6 am, 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 3:30 pm, and 5:30 pm, 7 days a week.

Phone Numbers


(252) 429-3100