1996, D'Arbonne, Upper Ouachita, and Handy Brake National Wildlife Refuges (NWR), the Mollicy Unit of Upper Ouachita and the Louisiana Wetlands Management Districts combined to form the North Louisiana Wildlife Refuge Complex. Black Bayou National Wildlife Refuge was established under the complex in 1997. The complex headquarters is located on D'Arbonne NWR just off Louisiana Hwy. 143 approximately six miles north of the West Monroe, Louisiana city limits on Holland's Bluff Road.
With over 64,000 acres of refuge lands and over 37 FmHA easements, ten fee title tracts and five leases throughout northeast Louisiana under the District's office, management focuses on preservation, enhancement, and restoration of wetland ecosystems (especially bottomland hardwoods), moist soil management, endangered species management, environmental education, and compatible wildlife-oriented recreation.
Wetlands, uplands, bottomlands, creeks, bayous, sloughs and everything in between enables an abundance of wildlife to make north Louisiana their home. Lands within this complex are home to a wide diversity of wildlife including impressive population levels of migratory as well as resident waterfowl, shorebirds and neo-tropical non-game birds such as bald eagle, ducks (most common among the 20+ species that winter here: mallard, green and blue winged teal, pintail, black duck, gadwall, wood duck, widgeon and ring-neck), Mississippi kite, hawks, woodpeckers, several species of warblers, vireos, hummingbird, eastern wild turkey, and owl. Many other resident wildlife species inhabit these lands and waters including white-tail deer, raccoon, river otter, mink, rabbits, skunks, gray and fox squirrels, opossum, gray and red foxes, coyotes, box and water turtles, armadillo, beaver, large mouth bass, bream, crappie, and catfish. Four species of poisonous snakes inhabit the area along with the ticks, chiggers and mosquitoes which can make a visit unpleasant for the unprepared. We provide refuge to over 250 bird, 43 mammal, 86 reptile and amphibian species and over 150 species of fish. Management is aimed at maintaining such diversity and supporting those species important from both a regional and a national standpoint.
Endangered and threatened species found in this area include the red-cockaded woodpecker with several colonies found within a small area of D'Arbonne, Upper Ouachita, and Black Bayou Refuges. Both the wintering bald eagle and the resident reclusive American alligator, found within the Complex, have been removed from the federal endangered list but are still protected as threatened.
Forest management in the bottoms is primarily for waterfowl, with consideration given to bald eagles, neotropical migrants, and resident wildlife. Selective thinning is used to release oak regeneration. Hardwood seedling continue to be planted on bottomland sites. Pine areas not needed by the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) are being converted to pine/hardwood and hardwood. Those areas suited for the RCW are managed primarily for forage habitat. Overall, pine stands are being thinned to lessen competition and reduce the risk of pine beetle infestations. Hundreds of acres of former agricultural fields have been planted back to bottomland hardwoods through the District's partnership program.
Moist soil management on thousands of acres covered with lush stands of prime waterfowl food plants are supplemented by flooded unharvested crops and attract hundreds of thousands of resident and migrating waterfowl, shorebirds and other water birds. The 20,000 acre Mollicy Unit and 2,000 acre D'Arbonne "Beanfield" are prime examples of this practice. Private agricultural lands enrolled in the Service "Partners" program through the Wetlands Management District office are farmed by cooperative farmers spreading this management tool throughout northern Louisiana.
Wildlife Censuses, Inventories, and Nesting Programs are in place throughout the Complex allowing us to monitor wildlife populations such as deer, turkey, waterfowl, neotropical migrants, etc. Wood duck boxes have been erected throughout northern Louisiana on private lands as well as Complex managed lands to provide cavities for wood duck nesting.
Waterfowl Banding is active in the early spring as well as early fall.
Special Studies are encouraged from outside entities. Selected projects must benefit the Refuge, as well as provide needed information on wildlife populations or habitats. Two such studies conducted in coordination with our local universities have been most helpful in our work with the Red-cockaded woodpecker:
Generally, the refuges in this complex are open year-round to general public use such as wildlife observation, hiking, wildlife photography and scheduled educational activities. In addition, many visitors take advantage of multiple hunting and fishing opportunities provided on these areas. Several boat launching ramps are available. No official trails exist but numerous woods roads and pipeline rights-of-way offer opportunities for hiking or non-motorized bike riding on D'Arbonne and Upper Ouachita Refuges. PLEASE BE AWARE THAT SOME AREAS ARE CLOSED TO ALL ENTRY AND OTHERS RESTRICTED DURING CERTAIN TIMES OF THE YEAR. Confer with the refuge hunting/fishing regulation brochure or contact the complex office for specific activities, areas and dates. It is recommended you contact the office prior to visits to determine water levels, migrant populations, etc.
Environmental education is an important program on the refuge. Groups are welcome. Arrangements for programs may be made by calling the refuge office.
Volunteer and Intern Programs
North Louisiana Refuges diverse program utilizes volunteers of all ages and abilities. Whether the jobs are labor intensive projects for scout or church groups, full-time internships, or regular weekly or monthly assistance, there are almost always needs in the various Refuge program areas. Don't hesitate to contact the Volunteer Coordinator to discuss a program tailored to your interests and abilities. Projects volunteers have assisted with in the past include wood duck banding/box monitoring/box building/box installation, neo-tropical migrant censusing, blue bird monitoring/box building/box installation, red-cockaded woodpecker censusing/banding/relocation, litter pick-up, vehicle maintenance, moist-soil area mowing, selective thinning for forest management, roadside mowing, building, sign & gate maintenance, backyard habitat maintenance, etc. Refuge policy and common sense dictate that volunteers who assist wherever needed will be considered first for the more "glamorous" biological activities. No minimums; however, the more time available, the more valuable and useful the volunteer!
"Friends of Black Bayou, Inc." is a non-profit organization that supports the protection and enhancement of Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Members will take part in fund-raising, as well as in planning and carrying out educational, recreational, and conservation projects. Projects planned or in progress include an environmental education building, an arboretum, a handicapped-accessible pier, nature trails and canoe trails, an amphitheater, and educational materials for school groups. You may contact the group through the complex office or by writing: Friends of Black Bayou, Inc.; P. O. Box 9241; Monroe, Louisiana 71211.
Refuge intern program is provided to college students interested in careers in wildlife management and forestry. Projects are tailored to individual student's interest and career goals. A small stipend and housing may be available for interested students.