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Wildlife Management Area: General Rules & Regulations

These lands are held in trust by the Department to conserve habitat for wildlife. The goal of the Wildlife Management Area system is to: Maintain and enhance habitats that support game and nongame wildlife while providing opportunities to hunt, fish, trap, and view wildlife. Other uses of WMAs may be allowed by written authorization of the Director, as long as they do not interfere with the goals and uses of WMAs.

NOTE: Not all activities listed below are available on each WMA; check our website at for specific WMA information.

Access Permit

  • Any person 17 years of age or older accessing a DWR Wildlife Management Area or Fishing Lake must have in possession one of the following valid Virginia licenses/permits: freshwater fishing license, hunting license, trapping license, boat registration, or DWR Access Permit.


  • Temporary dispersed primitive camping is allowed at many of the Department’s WMAs across the Commonwealth, when occupants are engaged in authorized activities. However, a camping authorization (no cost) is required to camp on WMA’s. The free authorization can be obtained at any license agent or at The camping authorization can be found in the list of “Special Licenses”.
  • Camping and fires are not allowed at Guinea Marsh WMA and Smith Mountain Coop WMA.
  • Primitive camping is allowed for up to 14 consecutive nights when occupants are engaged in authorized activities (no more than 14 nights in any 28-day period). Camping is prohibited on or within 300 feet of any boat ramp, fishing lake or at other specific sites as posted or marked on WMA maps.
  • All campers are required to store food in such a manner that it is not accessible by wildlife. Detailed camping regulations are found in 4VAC-15-20-155.
  • It is unlawful to leave a campfire unattended. From February 15 to April 30 campfires are allowed only between the hours of 4:00PM and midnight.

Cave Access

  • All caves are closed to access without written authorization from the Department.

Disabled Hunter Access

  • Trails are open to manual and power wheelchairs and personal mobility assistive scooters (for indoor/outdoor use) designed primarily to assist people with disabilities. Individuals are encouraged to use caution when selecting trails, as many were designed for foot traffic only. Terrain may make them unsuitable for personal mobility devices.
  • Electric vehicles up to 54 inches in width are permitted only on designated trails.


  • It is lawful to chase with dogs or train dogs on Department-owned lands only during authorized hunting, chase, or training seasons that specifically permit these activities.
  • Dogs must be leashed at all times outside of open hunting, chase, or training seasons.


  • It is unlawful to have in possession a firearm or any hunting weapon that is not unloaded and cased or dismantled:
    • While on Department-owned lands statewide, except during the period when it is lawful to take bear, deer, grouse, pheasant, quail, rabbit, raccoon, squirrel, turkey, waterfowl or migratory game birds on these lands.
    • Except when possessing a permit issued by the Department.
    • Except when possessing a handgun and a valid concealed carry permit issued by a Circuit Court.
  • It is unlawful to possess or transport any loaded firearm or loaded hunting weapon in or on any vehicle at any time on Department-owned lands statewide. (See exception for valid concealed handgun permit holders on Legal Use of Firearms & Archery Tackle.)
  • Target shooting is permitted only on designated ranges.

Fishing, Boating, & Swimming

  • Refer to the current Freshwater Fishing & Boating in Virginia guide and posted signs for special fishing rules which apply to this WMA.
  • It is unlawful to use boats propelled by a gasoline motor, sail, or mechanically operated recreational paddle wheel unless otherwise posted.
  • Swimming is prohibited unless otherwise posted. Anglers, hunters, and trappers actively engaged in fishing, hunting, or trapping may wade in public waters.
  • Only rod and reel angling is permitted. All other methods of take (trotlines, juglines, limblines, etc.) are prohibited.


  • Activities involving groups of more than 12 persons require written authorization from the Department.
  • Display or consumption of alcoholic beverages or marijuana in public is prohibited.
  • Commercial activities are prohibited except by written authorization from the Department.

Horseback/Bicycle Riding & Hiking

  • Horseback and bicycle riding only on roads designated for these uses. No riding in cultivated or planted fields, or on eroded areas. No cross country riding is allowed.
  • Class one and two electric power-assist bicycles as defined in § 46.2-100 can be used where traditional bicycles are allowed. These are bicycles with no more than three wheels, operable pedals, electric power-assist motors of no more than 750 watts and a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour. Class three electric power-assist bicycles, which are capable of speeds up to 28 miles per hour, are prohibited.
  • Hiking is welcome.
  • Riders, cyclists and hikers should be mindful of all open hunting and trapping seasons. Please avoid engaging in these activities when they may interfere with hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers.
  • Blaze orange hat or blaze pink clothing is recommended for non-hunters during hunting seasons.

Resource & Property Damage

  • It is unlawful to construct or occupy any permanent structure (including a permanently-affixed tree stand) except by Department permit.
  • Portable tree stands which are not permanently affixed can be placed on department-owned lands on or after September 15th and must be removed on or prior to January 31st of the following calendar year. Tree stands will be considered abandoned and confiscated by the department if left on department-owned lands after January 31st.
  • It is unlawful to plant, manipulate, cut, mutilate, destroy, or remove vegetation or to remove other minerals, artifacts or other property from this area. Metal detecting/artifact hunting is prohibited.
  • Berry picking and gathering of mushrooms or other fruits is allowed.
  • It is unlawful to damage, deface, or remove any building, gate, fence, sign or other property.
  • No posting of unauthorized signs, notices, and flyers anywhere on the WMA.


  • Motor vehicles are prohibited behind barricades or gates designed to prevent entry or within areas otherwise posted to prohibit motor vehicles.
  • Operation of ATVs and other unlicensed motor vehicles is prohibited.
  • Cross-country motor vehicle travel is prohibited.
  • Motor vehicles, campers, and trailers may be parked on Department-owned lands only when the owners/responsible party are engaged in authorized activities.
  • It shall be unlawful to use a drone or other unmanned aircraft on department-owned lands.
  • Any motor driven vehicle, or trailer, using or parked on roads normally open to motor vehicles on Department-owned WMAs shall conform with all state laws for highway travel, including valid inspection and registration.

For more information on the Department’s Wildlife Management Area System: