Close up of coneflowers in field

Photography Policies & Permits

Photography Policies/Professional Permits

Photographs and videos are a wonderful way to remember you visit to Heckrodt Wetland Reserve. We encourage visitors to take casual photographs for personal use and enjoyment. Personal photographs are not to be used for commercial purposes and no permit is required. We also encourage you to post your photos or videos on our Facebook page. We love to share your adventures!


Professional Photographers

Professional Photographer: Any agent, employee, or owner of a photography business, freelance, or hobby photographer, who uses Heckrodt Wetland Reserve grounds or facilities for portrait settings of individuals or groups. Also, anyone who intends to use the images in any manner in which they will be offered for sale is considered a commercial photographer. If you fit this definition, you will need to apply for a permit.

A permit is necessary for those who wish to use the Reserve’s setting as a background for posed photography. This includes wedding, family, engagement, senior photos or the like. Download commercial photographer permit application and policies below. Payment may also be made online.


General Photography Policies

Use of the Reserve for photography is open to the public during the Reserve’s regular operating hours. As the Reserve is open to the public, privacy cannot be guaranteed. Areas of the Reserve cannot be reserved for the exclusive use of any group. Heckrodt Wetland Reserve reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of each use and to stop a photography session should it be deemed inappropriate for any reason.


Respect for the Reserve’s Sanctuary and Program

  • All visitors (including photographers) must remain on the trails at all times. Going off trail violates sensitive wildlife habitat and disturbs resident wildlife.
  • Photographers may not block trails during their session.
  • Mosquitoes, ticks, spiders, and the like are a normal part of the Reserve. Insect repellant designed for use on skin is recommended. No insect repellant may be sprayed onto the environment.
  • Any mowed area inside the no mow grass north of the Nature Center is an indication of invasive species removal—it is not provided for posed photography purposes and may expose people to unpleasant reactions.
  • Visitors must remain on trails in the prairie – no photography is permitted within the prairie vegetation.
  • Do not pick the flowers or plants or rearrange the natural environment for any reason.
  • Do not climb or sit on split rail fences. Stand or sit in front of them for photography.
  • Fallen logs are not to be used as staging props for groups – use benches provided. Do not climb trees, downed trunks, or other natural items. The World Beneath Your Feet children’s play area is the only place this activity is permitted, and then only on the equipment provided. Do not enter the woods around the area.
  • No props are permitted without prior written approval from HWR staff. . NO helium or air filled balloons are permitted at any time. Because of the nature of the facilities no birdseed, rice, flower petals, glitter or confetti of any sort may be used or thrown anywhere on HWR property. No candles are permitted.
  • Photographers and their clients must respect other visitors. Loud noise, running on trails, and stomping on the boardwalk is inappropriate and must be avoided.
  • Do not ask staff/volunteers to stop work or move equipment/tools. Other visitors on the property must not be approached and asked to relocate their activity.
  • At no time should wildlife be chased, teased, petted, fed or otherwise harassed. Live wildlife is not provided as part of a photography background – this is their home. Heckrodt Wetland Reserve is not a petting zoo.
  • Photographers are expected to be aware of HWR education programs being conducted at the Reserve and to avoid disturbing these sessions. Call the Reserve in advance to inquire about programming and its whereabouts on the property. HWR programming always has priority over any photography session.
  • Commercial photography sessions are not permitted during HWR special events. Photographers should refer to the Reserve’s public program schedule for prohibited dates.
  • A room rental (minimum of four hours) is required for posed photography inside the nature center — see our Room Rental Brochure. Due to our programming schedule, very few room rental dates are available.
  • There are no changing rooms at Heckrodt. Restrooms may NOT be used for dressing rooms. Clients need to arrive camera-ready, or make other arrangements for changing clothes. Appropriate clothing must be worn at all times.


Safety and Security

  • The photographer and subjects at the Reserve agree to abide by all rules of the Reserve and by all requests of HWR’s representatives.
  • For safety reasons, no wires, ropes, strings, cords, ribbons, signs or poles can be strung from the natural environment.
  • Heckrodt Wetland Reserve is not responsible for any personal property. Valuables should not be left unattended anywhere on the grounds. The photographer is responsible for all damages incurred during their session at the Reserve.
  • All vehicles must park in the main parking lot — they are never authorized to access the property by the service road. The area near the main walkway entrance is for drop-off and pick-up only. Park in designated parking areas.


Prohibited Items

  • Alcoholic beverages are prohibited in all areas of the Reserve. HWR reserves the right to ask anyone who is inebriated or behaving in an objectionable or destructive manner to leave the premises. Law enforcement may be notified if HWR staff deems in appropriate.
  • Weapons should not be used as props for photography at any time.
  • Smoking is prohibited in all areas of the Reserve, including the parking lot. This includes tobacco and e-cigs.
  • Fires of any kind are prohibited on the Reserve.
  • Pets are not permitted inside the main gate of the Reserve parking lot. Only uniformed assistance animals are allowed on the site. If you have a pet that is a beloved member of your family, find another location to take photographs with it. On the day of your photography session, take your pet home before coming to the Reserve — your pet is not permitted to wait in your car.


Operating Hours

  • The Reserve grounds and trails are open from 6 AM—9 PM daily. Anyone on the property outside of these hours is trespassing.
  • The Nature Center is open Tuesday–Friday 8:00 AM—4:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday 11 AM—3:30 PM. Hours may change without notice. Call in advance.
  • HWR staff is frequently on the property without notice outside of regular operating hours. Don’t feel you can violate the rules outside of hours and not be caught. Surveillance equipment is also in use.