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Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Wildlife Management Areas

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Oak Orchard WMA locator map

Starting Tuesday, February 1, 2022, target shooting is prohibited at Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area to protect public safety, provide additional wildlife habitat, and reduce lead contamination in the environment. This also complies with recently adopted WMA regulations.

The primary purposes of Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are to provide wildlife habitat and wildlife-dependent recreation. Tonawanda and Oak Orchard WMAs are part of a 19,000-acre state and federal habitat complex that also includes the 11,000-acre Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) (leaves DEC website). These two WMAs are composed primarily of wetland habitat, but also include upland forest, shrubland, and grassland habitats.

The 5,600-acre Tonawanda WMA is the westernmost of the two State waterfowl areas. The 2,500-acre Oak Orchard WMA is located east of the Iroquois NWR in a historic wetland, the "Oak Orchard Swamp," created by a natural barrier across Oak Orchard Creek. This restriction is an outcropping of dolomitic limestone located at Shelby Center that resisted the cutting action of the creek and created a huge wetland upstream.

The Tonawanda area is located in the Tonawanda Creek flood plain situated to the southwest of the Oak Orchard Swamp. Historically, spring flooding by Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Creeks provided temporary water areas for migrating waterfowl, but by late spring water levels would drop, leaving only scant nesting habitat. After the WMAs were acquired, water levels were stabilized by constructing several miles of dike and more than 60 water level control structures. To date, approximately 3,000 acres of permanent marsh have been developed which is used extensively by waterfowl for nesting and as a resting and feeding area during the spring and fall migrations.

Featured Activities



General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Please stay on the designated trails and administrative roads to protect the diversity and richness of the plant communities found within this area.

Hunting and Trapping


Wildlife Management Unit: 8G

General information on hunting and general information on trapping include how-to and safety tips with links to seasons, rules, and regulations.

Oak Orchard and Tonawanda are posted as special regulations areas. All hunting and fishing may be enjoyed pursuant to State and Federal regulations with the following restrictions:

  1. Trapping is conducted under a permit system. Permits and trap tags are distributed out of the Iroquois Field Office located within the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters on Casey Road.
  2. Waterfowl hunting on Oak Orchard and Tonawanda on opening weekend of duck season requires a permit, which is issued by lottery.
  3. Pheasant hunting is prohibited on Tuesdays and Fridays and dog training on pheasants (during the pheasant season) is prohibited on Tuesdays and Fridays.
  4. Waterfowl refuge areas are posted with a yellow and green sign indicating "Waterfowl Refuge-No Waterfowl Hunting". These areas, however, are open to all other uses allowed on the WMA. Please be sure to abide by all game laws (view hunting seasons and trapping seasons).
  5. Call (585) 948-5182 for more information on any of these special regulations.



General information on fishing includes how-to and safety tips and links to seasons, rules, and regulations.



General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.

Oak Orchard/Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area was designated as a Bird Conservation Area because of its important bird habitat. Each spring, upwards of 100,000 Canada geese and thousands of ducks including black ducks, mallards, American wigeon, northern pintails, blue-winged and green-winged teal, northern shovelers, ringnecked ducks, and others stop here to rest and feed before continuing north, while some remain to nest on the area. Occasionally, unusual birds such as the cinnamon teal, ruddy duck, European wigeon, cackling goose, white-fronted goose, blue goose, and snow goose are identified by the more serious observers. Interesting shore birds, marsh birds and wading birds, warblers, and other songbirds also use this excellent wildlife habitat and are a constant challenge in identification to the amateur and professional ornithologist, alike. The best time to view the outstanding waterfowl concentrations occurs from early March through the middle of May.

Use both the Wildlife Management Area Vertebrate Checklist (PDF) and Wildlife Management Area Bird Checklist (PDF) as wildlife viewing guides.

Accessible Features

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General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access. There are over three miles of MAPPWD routes on Oak Orchard WMA.

Oak Orchard WMA has an accessible parking area and kiosk overlooking Goose Pond off of Albion Road and an accessible parking area, path to a pavilion, and boardwalk with viewing area off of Knowlesville Road.

Tonawanda WMA has an accessible parking area and kiosk on the north end of the WMA off of Route 77, as well as an accessible parking area, path, and waterfowl hunting blind off of Owen Road (hunting by permit only; call 585-948-5182 for permit information).


Situated between the two State WMAs is the 11,000-acre Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (leaves DEC website), creating a 19,000-acre complex of State and Federal wetlands.

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All Google Map links leave DEC website.

The Oak Orchard WMA is located 3 1/2 miles north of Oakfield in Genesee County, about midway between Buffalo and Rochester. It is the eastern-most unit of the two WMAs and encompasses approximately 2,500 acres.

The Tonawanda WMA is located halfway between Lockport and Batavia along Route 77 in Genesee, Niagara, Erie and Orleans Counties, bounded on the southwest by the Tonawanda Indian Reservation.

All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

Practice Leave No Trace Principles (leaves DEC website) when recreating on state land to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other users.

All users of Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area must follow all Wildlife Management Area Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

Rules & Regulations

Outdoor Safety Tips

NOTE: Ticks are active whenever temperatures are above freezing, but especially so in the late spring and early fall. Deer ticks can transmit Lyme and several other diseases. More information on deer ticks and Lyme disease can be obtained from the NYS Department of Health (leaves DEC website).

How We Manage Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Wildlife Management Areas

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Like most of the state's Wildlife Management Areas, Oak Orchard and Tonawanda WMAs are managed by DEC's Division of Fish and Wildlife for wildlife conservation and wildlife-associated recreation (hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing, and photography). Funding to maintain and manage this site is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration or "Pittman-Robertson" Act, which is acquired through excise taxes on sporting arms, ammunition, and archery equipment.

Developments to the WMA have included the construction of numerous impoundments, grassland restoration projects, production of annual grains for wildlife use under sharecropping agreements, and construction of large overlooks to observe migratory waterfowl. Other developments include hunter parking areas and access trails which are available to the hunter, hiker, and naturalist. The primary objective for the WMAs is providing habitat for waterfowl resting/feeding during migration as well as for waterfowl production during the nesting season. Habitats are also managed to provide habitat for other game species and for rare/nongame species such as marshbirds, grassland songbirds and raptors. At Tonawanda, a minor objective is flood control. Here, the various impoundments are capable of storing up to 4,000 acre feet of flood water, which protects the village of Wolcottsville situated to the west. View the latest updates on general conditions and marsh drawdowns (PDF) - October 2019.

Management of the WMAs include:

  • Marsh management by drawdowns, mowing/disking, and re-flooding
  • Control of invasive species
  • Mowing, grassland planting, agriculture, and occasionally controlled burns
  • Forestry cuts and planting food plots, trees, and shrubs
  • Erection of nesting structures
  • Conducting the hunting and trapping programs
  • Research projects for furbearers, waterfowl, and rare species

View the Habitat Management Plan for Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area (PDF), approved in December 2018, which identifies the WMA-specific target species and habitat goals for the WMA.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

Web links below can provide information about other recreation, attractions, and amenities in this area.

State Lands and Facilities

Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails, and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions, and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories, or search the internet for listings.

Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC website) for information on outdoor guides.

Waterfowl Hunting

A special permit is required to hunt waterfowl on the Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Wildlife Management Areas in Genesee and Niagara Counties (with small portions in Orleans and Erie counties) the first weekend (Saturday and Sunday) of Duck Season because these days receive the greatest hunting pressure. This permit system has been developed to increase hunter safety and improve the quality of hunting on these areas. For many years, the permit system has been used successfully at both Oak Orchard and Tonawanda.

There will only be two permit days-the first Saturday (Opening Day) and the first Sunday. Waterfowl hunting season dates are not finalized until the federal regulations are adopted in late Spring or early summer. Hunters are advised to confirm the final dates before hunting any waterfowl.

During the remaining days of the Duck Season, no permits are required for these areas. In addition, no special permits are required to hunt other game species at Oak Orchard or Tonawanda.

View the Reported Waterfowl Harvest for Oak Orchard and Tonawanda (PDF).


The waterfowl hunting permits for each day (100 for Tonawanda and 50 for Oak Orchard) will be distributed by a random lottery. These permits are non-transferable.

Permits will not be issued to hunters who have received a permit to hunt on the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. Therefore, cards from hunters who have been selected to hunt on Iroquois on the Opening Day/first Saturday will be excluded from the lottery for the Opening Day/first Saturday at Oak Orchard and Tonawanda.

Lottery Application Period: August 15 through September 15, Annually

To apply for the lottery, hunters will need to fill out the online Oak Orchard and Tonawanda hunting lottery form (leaves DEC website). The online form will ask for hunters to enter their name, e-mail address (needed in order for DEC to e-mail the permit), zip code, and their Waterfowl Hunter Education certificate number. Please remember that Waterfowl Hunter Education is required to hunt these properties on the opening weekend. Hunters will also need to indicate their preferences for day (opening day or the second day) and property (Tonawanda WMA or Oak Orchard). Hunters will be selected by random number lottery and assigned reservations based on hunter preferences until each property has reached the maximum number of hunters.

Successful applicants will have their permit e-mailed to them by September 25th.


Each permittee will be allowed to bring one companion. An additional companion, age 18 or younger, will be allowed as well. The companion(s) must be hunting within 50 yards of the permittee.


The permittee is responsible for completing the online reporting form by November 15th of the same year. If the permittee fails to report, the permittee will be ineligible for the next year's lottery.

All hunters are reminded that, to legally hunt waterfowl, they must have a current hunting license, be registered with the Harvest Information Program (HIP), and have a duck stamp signed across the face (if 16 years of age or older).

Season Dates

For information on waterfowl season dates, visit our Migratory Bird Hunting Seasons page.