Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge

Sign marking Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge

Located on the great plains of northeastern New Mexico, Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge is a 3,700-acre mix of playa lakes, wetlands, woodlots, shortgrass prairie and agricultural lands. The US Fish & Wildlife Service owns about 2,800 acres of the property while some 907 acres are leased from the Vermejo Conservation District. Since its establishment in 1965 as a feeding and resting area for migratory birds, the Refuge has hosted many thousands of geese, swans, ducks and sandhill cranes, usually from September through March. Management of the area requires that sections of the Refuge be closed to the public during special periods of waterfowl use. Like every other National Wildlife Refuge in the system, priority is given to the wildlife.

The Administrative Office is located 1.25 miles north of the intersection of Lake 13 Road and State Highway 505. The office is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. Information, exhibits and restrooms are available. No entrance fees are charged to access the Refuge and vehicles must stay in designated areas.

Hiking, nature observation and photography are encouraged. Observations vary seasonally in terms of species diversity and are best along the lake shore edges.The county roads next to the Refuge woodlots at dawn and dusk also provide excellent viewing opportunities.

From March 1 to October 31, fishing is permitted at Lakes 13 and 14. All state regulations apply, including the the requirement of a State of New Mexico fishing license. Fishermen can only use rods and reels or poles and lines and their equipment must be attended at all times. All other wetland areas and lakes are closed to public entry.

Canoeing, kayaking and boating (trolling speed only) is allowed on Lake 13. No boats are allowed on any of the other lakes or wetland areas. There are no ramps and water conditions vary. Muddy water is common along the lake shore and sometimes in spring and summer there are strong, sudden winds that can easily capsize small boats.

A small primitive camping area with a 3 day limit is available on the west side of Lake 13. Camping season is the same as fishing season: March 1 through October 31. At the entrance road leading into Lake 13 there are restrooms. There is no electric service and no pump-out facilities.

There is absolutely no hunting of any species allowed on the Refuge. Firearms, weapons of any type, campfires, ATV's, and littering are prohibited. Pack out your trash or use the trash bins provided. The speed limit throughout the Refuge is 25 mph and is strictly enforced. Motor vehicles are permitted only on designated roads. In all cases, recreational activities, public use or public access not specifically permitted is prohibited. Searching for or removing objects of antiquity or other objects is strictly prohibited. And pick no flowers or other vegetation, and do not harass, capture or remove any wildlife.

Satellite view of Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge
Satellite view of the refuge
The visitor center structure
The Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
A view from Lake 13 across the meadows and ponds to the visitor center
Looking southwest to the Visitor Center from the dam on Lake 13
The salt pan below Lake 13
The salt pan below Lake 13
Map of the area of Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge
Photos courtesy of TheArmchairExplorer, CCA-by-SA 3.0 License