Refuges in the SELA Complex
Bayou Sauvage
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Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge

Photo of a snowy egret standing on a log
© Walter Clifton

Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1990.  There are over 24,000 acres of fresh and brackish marshes and coastal hardwood forests, all within the city limits of New Orleans, making it the nation's largest urban National Wildlife Refuge.  Bayou Sauvage is only 15 minutes from the French Quarter.  Most of the refuge is inside massive hurricane protection levees, built to hold back storm surges and maintain water levels in the low-lying city. 

Contact information for all the refuges can be found on the Contact Us page.

Directions to the Refuge: From Slidell: Take I-10 west; take Irish Bayou exit #254; turn left onto Highway 11.
From New Orleans: Take I-10 east to exit #246A (Chalmette, I-510); go about 2 miles on I-510 to Highway 90 east exit.; turn left and go approximately 4 miles.
Interpretive kiosks are located on Highway 11 and on Highway 90.

Wildlife and Habitat: The refuge contains a variety of different habitats, including freshwater and brackish marshes, coastal hardwood forests, lagoons, canals, borrow pits, cheniers (former beach fronts) and natural bayous. The diverse habitats meet the needs of over 340 bird species during various seasons of the year. Peak waterfowl populations of over 25,000 use the wetland areas during the fall, winter, and early spring months. 

The marshes located inside the hurricane protection levees are dominated by wiregrass, fall panicum, switchgrass, sprangletop, and coastal waterhyssop. The freshwater bodies are characterized by coontail, water-celery, and southern niad.  These habitats are important to waterbirds, such as waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, and secretive marsh birds.

The natural ridges and lower lying portions of the levee backslopes support coastal hardwood communities that provide critical stopover habitat for trans-Gulf migratory songbirds.

The freshwater lagoons, bayous and ponds serve as production areas for largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish. The marshes along Lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne are dominated by wiregrass and serve as waterbird habitat and as nurseries for various fish, crabs, and shrimp.

Common mammals are white-tailed deer, squirrels, otter, raccoon, feral hog, nutria, and mink.  Alligators and turtles are also common on the refuge. 

Management Goals: Habitat preservation and improvement through water and moist-soil management, archaeological resource protection, reforestation, endangered species management, waterfowl management, environmental education and promotion of recreational programs.

For 15 years, the refuge has partnered with the City of New Orleans and The U.S. Army National Guard to place recycled Christmas trees in the marshes of the refuge to help restore habitat. Click on the link below to view this latest round of recycling.

Download the refuge fact sheet here
Photo of hundreds of egrets foraging for food in shallow water
© Tom Carlisle

A Comprehensive Conservation Plan for Bayou Sauvage NWR may be downloaded from the FWS Southeast Region web site he here. Note: the full document is 4 megabytes in size and will take some time to download.

Opportunities for Public Use: Environmental education, birding, youth waterfowl hunting (see below), fishing, hiking, wildlife observation, photography and canoeing.  Public use regulations and map may be downloaded at the bottom of this page.

There is no staffed public contact facility at Bayou Sauvage. The Ridge Trail site on US 90 offers a 2/3 mile interpretive boardwalk, restrooms, and access to the Maxent Levee trail. Kiosks at this location provide in-depth visitor information about the refuge and its resources. A shorter boardwalk trail is located at Madere Marsh, also on US 90. See map below.

Environmental Education: Environmental education programs on the refuge have resumed. For more information see our Environmental Education page.

Events: We sponsor and support several events at the SELA Refuges Complex throughout the year. The most significant event is "Wild Things" which is held at the Refuge Complex Headquarters (Bayou Lacombe Centre) in Lacombe, Louisiana. The event is held every year in October on the Saturday of National Wildlife Refuge Week (the Saturday after Columbus Day). We also support the Great Louisiana Bird Fest in April, International Migratory Bird Day on the second Saturday in May and National Hunting and Fishing Day on the fourth Saturday in September. For more information about specific events see the SELA Refuge Event Calendar.

Photo of a purple Louisiana iris flower
© Walter Clifton

Youth Waterfowl Hunting on Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge
were opened for the first time to youth waterfowl hunting on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011. It was the first hunt season opened on the refuge since its establishment in 1990.

The refuge youth waterfowl hunt provides an opportunity not readily available to the youth in the local area, along with exposure to nature and the important waterfowl habitat found in the marshes of this region.

Hunting of waterfowl (ducks, geese) and coots only is allowed on designated sections of the refuge, delineated on the refuge hunt map, in accordance with State and Federal regulations subject to the following conditions:

All waterfowl and coot hunting shall be considered youth hunts. Adults must be 21 years of age or older and must be accompanied by a youth, age 15 and under. Youth must be capable of and must actively participate in the hunt by the possession and/or firing of a legal weapon during during hunt for the express purpose of harvesting game.

Each adult may supervise no more than two (2) youths, and each youth may be supervised by no more than one adult during the course of any hunt. Adults accompanying youth on refuge hunts may participate by hunting, except during the special youth waterfowl season, and may not harvest more than their own daily bag limit.

Photo of a sunflower that emerged from the mud following Hurricane Katrina
© Tom Carlisl

Waterfowl (ducks, geese) and coot hunting is permitted until 12 p.m. (noon) on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday only. Hunting is allowed only on those portions of the refuge that are identified on the refuge hunt brochure permit map.

All hunters must carry a valid refuge permit.

Additional regulations, the refuge permit, and the refuge map may be obtained at information kiosks on the refuge, from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices at 61389 Hwy. 434 in Lacombe, LA 70445 or downloaded from the table at the bottom of this page.

Documents, maps and brochures related to the refuge can be found here.

Document Name
Click to Open or Download
Refuge Fact Sheet
Additional information about the refuge
Download the refuge fact sheet here
Hunting and Fishing Regulations
Youth waterfowl hunting permit, fishing and public use regulations, and a refuge map
Download fishing and public use regulations here
Large Format Map
24"x 24" laminated Refuge map available for purchase from Friends of Louisiana Refuges at the Bayou Lacombe Center
Download fishing and public use regulations here
Refuge Boundary File

This File will load on your Google Earth TM software

While the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service makes every effort to represent the data shown on these maps as completely and accurately as possible (given existing time and resource constraints), the USFWS gives no warranty, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of these data. In addition, the USFWS shall not be held liable for improper or incorrect use of the data described and/or contained herein. Graphical representations provided by the use of this data do not represent any legal description of the data herein and are provided only as a general representation of the data.

Download fishing and public use regulations here

The legislative purposes for the refuge are:

There are eight National Wildlife Refuges in the Southeast Louisiana Refuges (SELA) Complex. This is the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge home page. It is accessible from all the pages in the SELA Complex web site in the menu on the left.

Each of the programs in the SELA Refuges Complex also has a page. They are accessible from all the pages in the SELA Refuges Complex web site in the menu on the left side or near the bottom of this page.

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

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Last Updated on July 14, 2014