Recreational opportunities and rules on your WDFW public lands

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Methow Wildlife Area
Photo by Scott Fitkin
Edge of the Pasayten Wilderness from the Methow Wildlife Area.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) envisions a Washington where fish and wildlife thrive in healthy habitats, and where people experience and enjoy our state's natural gifts for generations to come. By actively managing lands, restoring habitats, and preserving wild places, the department serves as a steward and guardian for Washington's natural places and wildlife.

WDFW owns and manages more than 1 million acres of land, including over 30 wildlife areas and nearly 500 water access areas. The primary purpose of department lands is the preservation, protection, perpetuation, and management of fish and wildlife and their habitats. Public use may include fishing, hunting, fish and wildlife appreciation, and other outdoor recreational opportunities when compatible with healthy and diverse fish and wildlife populations (WAC 220-500-010).

General rules for recreating on your WDFW lands, summarized below, are found in WAC Chapter 220-500, with definitions provided in RCW 77.08.010 and WAC 220-500-020. Each rule represents years of discussion and extensive public review.

For grazing rules, read WACs 220-500-190 and 220-500-200.

For rules about commercial use or activities, visit the commercial permits page, and read WACs 220-500-020 and 220-500-060

Be advised: Emergency regulation changes may occur throughout the year that will supersede information contained on this page. Regarding game management units, be aware that state, local, or municipal firearms restrictions and hunting closures may apply.

Behavior and conduct: keg registration, banquet events, and posted signs or notices

Disorderly conduct will not be tolerated on department lands. Disorderly conduct includes:

  • Using abusive language
  • Intentionally disrupting any lawful assembly or meeting of persons without lawful authority
  • Intentionally obstructing vehicles or pedestrian traffic without lawful authority

Users can hold, sponsor, or attend an event requiring a banquet permit from the liquor control board, but a permit from WDFW is required. Any possession of beer or malt liquor in quantities subject to keg registration laws under RCW 66.28.210 requires a permit from WDFW.

Department lands must be used in a manner or purpose consistent with posted signs or notices (WAC 220-500-030).

Camping

Except when allowed by department notice, campsites have a 21-day limit within a 30-day period. Residence camps are not allowed on department lands (WAC 220-500-100). Residence camps include:

  • Encampments
  • Occupancies
  • Presence that is a person's principal place of residence

Camping is allowed on department lands unless otherwise posted.

Discharge of litter

On any properties owned, leased, or controlled by the department, any garbage, debris, or waste must be discarded into a litter or garbage receptacle or container installed for that purpose (WAC 220-500-220).

Dogs and other pets

With the exception of service animals for persons with disabilities, pets may be prohibited or regulated.

From April through July, all dogs and other pets must be leashed. It is unlawful to cause or allow a pet to roam unattended or unleashed on designated access sites or within 500 feet of a designated campground (WAC 220-500-170). Field trials for hunting dogs require a permit.

Dumping and sanitation

On any properties owned, leased, or controlled by the department, there is no draining or dumping refuse or human waste from any trailer, camper, automobile, other vehicle, or vessel.

Automobiles, vessels, or other vehicles can only be cleaned or washed with water or biodegradable soaps. This rule does not apply when cleaning to control or prevent the spread of invasive species, provided only water is used (WAC 220-500-120).

Erecting and using camps, blinds, and tree stand structures for hunting

All non-natural materials used to construct camps, blinds, or tree stand structures must be removed at the end of hunting season. Unattended, non-department owned blinds are available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

Digging pits to create waterfowl hunting blinds is not allowed. Cutting trees or attaching wire, staples, or nails to trees in an effort to build camps, blinds, or tree stands is also not allowed.

Any camp structures must be removed at the end of a trip (WAC 220-500-130).

Firearms and target practicing

An updated target shooting regulation went into effect Jan. 18, 2021 to increase public safety and protect habitat. The rule includes the following elements:

  • Know what lies beyond your target and backstop. Public lands are used by many types of recreationists that may not be easily visible. 
  • Practice target shooting only in areas with an unobstructed, earthen backstop at last 8 feet high that can safely stop and contain all projectiles, fragments, and ricochets. Place targets within 8 feet and shoot into the lower 1/2 of the backstop. 
  • Do not shoot within 500 feet of a recreation site, residences or structures or on, across, from, at, along, or down roads or trails. 
  • Unless otherwise posted, do not engage in target shooting half hour after sunset to half hour before sunrise. 
  • Only use targets made for target shooting (paper and biodegradable clay targets). Steel targets are permitted from Oct. 1 to May 31. 
    • Do not use exploding targets. 
    • Do not shoot at trees, glass, appliances, electronics, furniture, vehicles, signs, or built structures (e.g. buildings, fences, gates, power poles). 
  • Pack out what you pack in, including shell casings, targets, and other debris. 

For more information, see the Regulations for Responsible Target Shooting Infographic or Target Shooting in Washington brochure.

The department may designate locations and times for target practice consistent with resource management or public safety concerns (WAC 220-500-140).

Fires and campfires

Except for campfires, fires in stoves, lanterns, and barbecues, and the department's use of fire for habitat management, it is unlawful to start or tend any other fire.

Campfires must be limited in size to a maximum of up to 3 feet in diameter and 3 feet high (WAC 220-500-110).

Fireworks

The discharge or possession of the following items is unlawful and prohibited (WAC 220-500-150):

  • Fireworks
  • Model rockets 
  • Other devices containing any explosive or flammable compounds 

These rules do not apply to items:

  • Gasoline or diesel powered equipment
  • Cooking stoves or grills
  • Lanterns 
  • Lighters 
  • Heaters
  • Legal firearms

Green Dot maps

Want a great way to get into the Washington backcountry? Follow the green dots.

Together with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and private landowners, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) cooperatively manages many roads within Yakima and Kittitas counties under a "Green Dot" system. This system provides access for camping, hunting, wildlife viewing, and ATV and off-road vehicle riding, while protecting sensitive habitat from damage caused by motorized vehicles.

How to use Green Dot maps

Using the Green Dot system is easy: roads open to motor vehicle travel are marked with a round green reflector on a white route marker. These roads are shown in green on the area maps. In some areas, public roads (such as county or U.S. Forest Service roads) are used to access the Green Dot system and are shown in gray on the maps.

Any roads not designated as a Green Dot or public access road are off-limits to motor vehicles. Seasonal closures are also shown on the maps; check the map legend for more information.

These roads are used by a wide variety of recreationalists. Please respect others and avoid driving on wet, soft roads in an effort to reduce damage.

Maps are reviewed annually and typically updated after May 1.

Print your own map

Select a map (using the 11-inch-by-17-inch option) from the list below to print your own copy of a map. They must be printed in color to clearly see all the features; printing in black and white may compromise the information or make it difficult to read.

Get Green Dot maps on your smartphone

Want to use a Green Dot map on your smartphone? Search for "PDF Maps" in the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, download the app to your phone, then download one of the 38-inch-by-26-inch Green Dot area maps listed on this page. When you open the map in the app, you'll be able to see your location on the map to aid in navigation.

Noncommercial use or activity: groups

Public use of WDFW lands for fishing, hunting, fish and wildlife appreciation, and other outdoor recreational opportunities compatible with healthy and diverse fish and wildlife populations (not commercial) requires a permit for groups of more than 30 people (read WAC 220-500-010 and WAC 220-500-070). 

Noncommerical groups do not need to pay a fee for this permit. All permits and rights of entry may be obtained from a WDFW lands agent in the appropriate region. For more information on permit and right of entry requirements, visit the commercial permits for use of WDFW lands page.

Parking

Vehicles cannot be left unattended for more than 21 consecutive days. Additionally, the mooring of a houseboat, dock, or other floating occupancy structure (except floating waterfowl hunting blinds) without a permit (WAC 220-500-160) is prohibited.

A Discover Pass, Vehicle Access Pass, or WDFW permit is required for motor vehicle access to department lands.

Public conduct on private lands under cooperative agreement with the department

Do not discharge firearms or archery equipment within a posted safety zone on department controlled lands. Violating this subsection is a misdemeanor, pursuant to RCW 77.15.230.

For the purposes of this section, "department controlled lands" means land, water, and access areas, such as boat ramps and trail heads, which are privately owned and under cooperative agreement with the department (WAC 220-500-230).

Removal of minerals, wood, and artifacts from department lands

Do not remove petrified wood, minerals, fossils, wood products, or artifacts from department lands unless such removal is authorized by a permit issued by the Director (WAC 220-500-210).

Shed antler collecting

Permits: In Washington, there are no seasons or permits required to collect shed antlers. However, shed hunters must follow state regulations for land use, such as searching for sheds on public lands or private land with permission. People should also always follow posted closure signs.

Seasonal closures to protect elk: There are seasonal wildlife area closures in Cowlitz, Kittitas, and Yakima counties to protect elk from human disturbance during their winter recovery period. 

Trespassers caught within a closed area are subject to a $150 fine, and trespassers caught trying to remove sheds face an increased fine of $250 dollars and potential jail time.

For more information on shed antler collecting in Washington, and how to protect wildlife and their habitats when exploring public lands, read WDFW's blog

Vehicles using department lands

Motor driven vehicles are not to be operated on roads controlled or managed by the department in a manner or for a purpose contrary to posted signs or notices. Exceptions to this rule can only be authorized by the Director pursuant to the department road management agreement.

Violation of this section is an infraction and punishable under RCW 77.15.230 (WAC 220-500-080).

Violations

Violation of any of the provisions of Chapter 220-500 WAC is an infraction under RCW 77.15.020 and 77.15.160, unless otherwise provided (WAC 220-500-180).