Refuges in the SELA Complex
Bayou Sauvage
Bayou Teche
Big Branch Marsh
Bogue Chitto
Refuge Locations

SELA Refuges Programs

Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1994 on the initiative of a group of individuals concerned with the pace of development on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. Building on this grass-roots effort, lands for a new refuge were acquired by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to protect, enhance and manage a valuable wetland ecosystem. Originally 12,000 acres, the refuge has grown to almost 19,000 acres. It comprises the largest undeveloped natural area along the lake’s northern shore. Within it are sandy beaches, offshore grass beds, marshes, hardwood hammocks and pine flatwoods.

Photo of the marsh along Bayou Lacombe from Lake Road
© Tom Carlisle

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

Directions to the Refuge: The refuge headquarters is co-located with the Southeast Louisiana Refuges' headquarters on a beautiful property in Lacombe, Louisiana, The offices are on Hwy 434 two miles south of I-12 (Exit 74) and just north of the intersection of 434 and Highway 190. Look for the Big Branch Marsh Refuge sign. Office Hours are 7 AM to 4 PM Monday through Friday. Our phone number is (985) 882-2000. The headquarters property is known as "Bayou Lacombe Centre." See the documents below for maps and brochures.

Refuge Visitor Center - The refuge complex has opened it's visitor center located at the complex headquarters address above. The center displays exhibits about all eight refuges managed by the Southeast Louisiana Refuges Complex. Staffed by volunteers, the visitor center will remain open on Thursdays-Saturdays from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Volunteers are needed to help run the visitor center. Please contact the volunteer coordinator at 985-882-2021.

Photo of a fire crew member using a drip torch to start a prescribed fire in the pine flatwoods
© Tom Carlisle

Endangered and Threatened Species on the Refuge: The red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) is found in the pine flatwoods of the refuge. We actively work to improve habitat for the RCW. Among other methods we use precribed fire. See the Endangered Species page and the Fire Management page for more information.

All populations of the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), including the Gulf Coast, California/West Coast, Caribbean and Latin America were delisted in 2009. The brown pelican is a year-round resident of southeast Louisiana.

The American alligator was de-listed as an endangered species in 1987 but remains listed as threatened due to similarity in appearance to the endangered American crocodile.

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was de-listed as a threatened species in 2007. Several bald eagles visit the refuge each year.

Other Wildlife Species: Rabbit, turkey, various neo-tropical birds, deer, squirrel, migratory waterfowl, ospreys and other raptors, wading birds can be seen through the refuge. The refuge and Cornell University partnered with Google to provide a list of bird sightings made on the refuge and are provided below.

Photo of a freshwater marsh with lilly pads
© Tom Carlisle

Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is identified in the Eastern Florida Parishes loop of the America's Wetland Birding trail. You can view the brochure of the Atchafalaya Loop here.

Habitat Zones: The refuge has unique habitat zones that contain diverse combinations of plant communities. These zones begin with the sandy beach fringing Lake Pontchartrain. Moving inland, the next zone is the brackish marsh. The third zone has a water level that is slightly below the marsh floor where the predominant plants are wiregrass and spike rush. The farthest inland plant zone is the upland zone and it consists of pine flatwoods and bottomland hardwood hammocks.

Management Goals: Efforts are being taken to protect and manage habitat for the future through preservation, enhancement, and restoration of this valuable wetland and pine flatwoods ecosystem. Refuge staff actively manipulate the habitats to provide for a natural diversity of wildlife.

For example, Service biologists have been involved with two management projects to create additional marsh lands. The first involved placing discarded Christmas trees in specially designed wooden cradels in the marsh. The trees slow wave action, trap sediments, and combat erosion. The second project required filling large, open ponds with dredge material and planting it with marsh grasses. Two of these projects have been completed in 2008 near the Goose Point and Point Platte areas of the refuge.

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

Opportunities for Public Use: Environmental education, birding, fishing, hunting, biking, hiking, wildlife observation, photography and canoeing. One of our major public use areas is the Boy Scout Road boardwalk and trail. All hunters must read, sign and have in their possession, a Refuge Hunting Permit as found on the front of the Hunting and Fishing Regulations brochure. See the documents below for additional information, maps and brochures. Fore more public opportunities near the refuge, visit

Photo of the new boardwalk on the Boy Scout Road Trail
© Tom Carlisle

Environmental Education: We provide environmental education programs at the refuge and in schools. For more information see our Environmental Education page.


The refuge partnered with The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana to plant 24,000 plugs of marsh grass in May, 2014. go to the website to see more about volunteering for these types of activities.

Bayou Gardens and Southeast LA Refuges Visitor Center
The Refuges visitor center is open Thursday – Saturday from 9 am – 4 pm, and includes wildlife dioramas, displays on the eight wildlife refuges of the complex, and a bookstore operated by the Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges. The gardens, grounds, and trails are also open for self-guided exploration Monday through Friday from 7 am till 4 pm, and on Saturday from 9 am - 4 pm.The Visitor Center and gardens are located at 61389 Hwy 434 in Lacombe. For more information phone 985-882-2000 or 985-882-0093.

Wild Things 2014

Photo of kids at Wild Things 2010
Kids having fun at Wild Things 2010

Wildthings 2014 will be held on October 18, 2014. We last celebrated Wildthings on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 at this annual family event, hosted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and The Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges, Inc.  An action-packed day was spent at the 110-acre Bayou Lacombe Centre in Lacombe, LA, learning about wildlife, enjoying displays from over 40 exhibitors, or going for a canoe tour on beautiful Bayou Lacombe. There were live animals and plenty of hands-on activities for kids of all ages. people hiked a trail, viewed the amazing Youth Wildlife Art Show, or relaxed and enjoyed live music. That year over 4,000 guests joined us to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week at Wild Things. It’s all here, and it’s all free! Enjoy next years Wildthings! Check out the Color Flyer here.

When: Saturday, October 18, 2014  10 am – 5 pm
Where: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bayou Lacombe Centre 61389 Hwy 434, Lacombe, LA 70445
For more information: 985-882-2000

Wild Things Youth Art Contest 2014 - Young Artists Wanted! 
The Wild Things Youth Art Contest and Exhibition is held every year in conjunction with the Wild Things event.  The contest is open to youth from ages 5 to 18 in the mediums of drawing and painting.  Prizes and ribbons are awarded to first, second, and third place winners and honorable mention winners receive ribbons.  The art is on exhibit throughout the festival event and winners are recognized at an informal awards ceremony. For more information on the contest click here. For an entry form click here.

Additional Special Events:
In addition to Wild Things we also support or cooperate with 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.

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

Document Name
Click to Open or Download
Refuge Map and Information Sheet
Map of the Refuge and Additional Information
Download refuge map and information sheet here
Refuge Fact Sheet
Additional information about the refuge
Download refuge fact sheet here
Refuge Bird List
Checklist of birds found at the refuge
Download refuge bird checklist here
Hunting and Fishing Regulations
Hunting and fishing regulations, refuge hunting permit and map of the refuge.
Download hunting and fishing regulations here
Large Format Map
42" x 24" Laminated Refuge map available for purchase from Friends Of Louisiana Refuges at the Bayou Lacombe Center. Updated in 2014
Download viewable hunting area map here
Refuge Aerial Photo (West Side)
This full-size 2013 map can be viewed and zoomed when downloaded
Download viewable hunting area map here
Refuge Aerial Photo (East Side)
This full-size 2013 map can be viewed and zoomed when downloaded
Download printable hunting area map here
Refuge Hunt Brochure Map
This is a downloadable map of the refuge hunt permit
Download printable hunting area map 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.

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Download printable hunting area map here

Click here to get the Adobe Reader

There are eight National Wildlife Refuges in the SELA Refuges Complex. The mission of these refuges and 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.

Last Updated on August 7, 2013