Things to know

Thousands of visitors come to the VSWS every year to see the black bears that inhabit the area and to learn about and view their behavior, habitat and life cycles. Black bears of all ages visit the sanctuary each season, including: large males, females with cubs, yearlings and sub-adults. From our viewing deck, visitors can observe bears in the meadow below and in the surrounding woods interacting with each other, playing, feeding and even mating.

  • Turn on our narrow gravel road and follow for approximately 1 mile to the sanctuary parking lot
  • Obey posted speed limits due to wildlife
  • Tripods, scooters, pets, video recorders, smoking, food and beverages (other than water) are PROHIBITED on the viewing platform
  • In case of rain, during visiting hours the sanctuary will remain open unless weather becomes severe (lightning and high winds) at which point will close and WILL NOT reopen for the evening
  • Umbrellas and rain jackets are recommended when rain is forecasted.  Disposable ponchos are available in the gift shop
  • Tickets can be purchased online or at the visitors center in Orr and encouraged in order shorten ticket lines onsite especially on holiday weekends.
  • Flying insects!  This is Minnesota!  Come prepared.
  • Last bus will leave viewing deck to return guests to parking lot at 8pm
  • Although uncommon, sometimes unforeseen issues cause an unscheduled closure of the sanctuary.  Always check our Facebook page for unscheduled closures before traveling.
  • Closed weekly on Sunday and Mondays.  Opened on Sunday for Memorial day, July 4th and Labor day weekends only.