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

SELA Refuges Programs

Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge

About the Refuge

Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1984.  Its 15,000 acres are part of the largest bottomland hardwood swamp in the country.  This beautiful swampland offers a multitude of recreational options.  Hunting, fishing, hiking  and some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the country exist in the Atchafalaya Basin. The refuge is managed cooperatively with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sherburne Wildlife Management Area and the Corps of Engineers Atchafalaya Spillway Water Diversion Project.

Directions to the Refuge: From Baton Rouge, LA, take U.S. Highway 190 west to the Atchafalaya River, then go south on Louisiana Highway 975 to the Sherburne WMA. You may also drive from Baton Rouge or Lafayette, LA by taking Interstate 10 to the Whiskey Bay Bridge.  Exit onto Hwy 975 north onto a gravel road about 9 miles. Turn right onto Bayou Manual Road or continue north along the levee for more entrances. After prolonged heavy rainfall, a 4x4 may temporarily be necessary to access the refuge by vehicle.

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

Endangered and Threatened Species on the Refuge:

Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus) and American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). 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.

Other Wildlife Species:

White-tailed deer, eastern wild turkey, the spectacular swallow-tailed kite, and neo-tropical migratory birds

Photo of a swamp thrush eating the bright red fruit of a magnolia tree and a photo of a cypress tree swamp with duck weed floating on the water
© Walter Clifton

Habitat Description:

America’s great river swamp deep in the heart of Cajun country, and the southern end of the Lower Mississippi River Valley. It’s the nations largest complex of forested wetlands of bottomland hardwoods and swamps.

Management Goals:

Improving plant communities for endangered, threatened and declining species of wildlife as well as for waterfowl and other migratory birds, wildlife management through public hunting and developing partnerships.

A Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for Atchafalaya NWR may be downloaded from the FWS Southeast Region web site here.

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 refuge fact sheet here
Refuge Brochure
Color brochure with a refuge map
Download refuge brochure here
Refuge Bird List
Checklist of birds found at the refuge
Download refuge bird list here
Refuge Aerial Photo
Aerial photo of Refuge with approximate refuge boundaries
Download refuge bird list here
Sherburne Boundary file
File which uploads on Google earth showing the outer boundary of the Sherburne Complex which includes lands owned by USFWS as Atchafalaya NWR, US Army Corps of Enginners as Bayou DeOurses Area, and LADWF as Sherburne WMA
Download refuge bird list here

Click here to get the Adobe Reader

Opportunities for Public Use:

Hunting of migratory game birds, small game and big game, sport fishing, hiking, bird watching, wildlife observation, photography and environmental education.

There is a boat launch with a dock and observation deck at the Section 120 Road trail.

Consult the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sherburne Wildlife Management Area web page for hunting regulations. A free, self-clearing permit is required for all activities on the management area. The permits are available at kiosks along the entrance roads to the area. All persons older than 16 or younger than 60 using wildlife management areas including the refuge for any reason must purchase a Wild Louisiana Stamp, hunting, or fishing license from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries or other local supplier of licenses. For all other uses, contact the refuge manager.

Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge is identified in the Atchafalaya loop of the America's Wetland Birding trail. You can download the brochure of the Atchafalaya Loop here.


Every year we co-sponsor Step Outside Day at the Sherburne WMA Complex. The event is held the Saturday before Mother's Day in May. The event is free and open to the public.  Lunch is provided and many activities are scheduled including archery, boat rides, decoy painting, fishing, target shooting, trap shooting, a bear maze, and a birding walk.  All equipment for the activities will be provided. The event generally runs from 9:00am to 3:30pm.  Many exhibits will also be on display. Check back here and on the SELA Refuge Event Calendar for more information.

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 October 28, 2015