Parker River National Wildlife Refuge (PRNWR)

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1942 primarily to provide feeding, nesting and resting habitat for migratory birds. Located along the Atlantic Flyway, the refuge is of vital significance to waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds during pre- and post- breeding migratory periods. The refuge consists of 4,662 acres 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 pan. 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. The Visitor Center exhibits are open 7 days a week from 11am-4pm. The interactive exhibits feature information about piping plover recovery, invasive species, migratory birds (including an indoor bird observation area), salt marshes and much more. The Visitor Center also features The Plover’s Nest gift shop, run by the Friends of Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, an auditorium that shows an introductory video to the refuge, and a set of classrooms used for meetings, field trips and interpretive programs.


6 Plum Island Turnpike Newburyport, MA 1950

Driving Directions

I-95 to exit 57 and travel east on Route 113 continuing straight onto Route 1A south to the intersection with Rolfe’s Lane. Turn left onto Rolfe’s Lane. Turn right onto the Plum Island Turnpike and travel 2.0 miles crossing the Sgt. Donald Wilkinson Bridge to Plum Island. Take your first right onto Sunset Drive to the refuge entrance.

Notes & Advisories

Walking, biking, bird watching, along marked boardwalks and roadways, canoeing and kayaking. To reduce disturbance to wildlife, refuge beaches are closed April 1 – midsummer. Public use is restricted to designated areas where there is plenty to see and do. Be sure to visit the refuge headquarters andvisitor center at 6 Plum Island Turnpike for more information. One of this country’s premier birding sites, the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge attracts more than 350 species of birds. Species of note include piping plovers, purple martins, egrets, warblers, thrushes, flycatchers, tree swallows and snowy owls. Covering 4,662 acres, the refuge occupies the southern tip of Plum Island including 6.5 miles of broad sandy beaches, and roughly 3,000 acres of salt marsh, part of The Great Marsh (page 20). Several miles of self-guided trails amble through dune, thicket, shrub and marsh. Sweeping vistas of the refuge and the surrounding marshlands can be found from observation towers and platforms. The site is also a renowned hotspot for wildlife photographers, so be sure to bring a camera!


  • Great Marsh
  • Natural Resources
  • Parks
  • Wildlife Viewing


  • Appropriate for all ages
  • Parking Available
  • Restrooms Available
  • Self-Guided