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Delta National Wildlife Refuge


Aerial photo of the marsh, passes and bayous at  Delta NWR
Credit USFWS

Delta National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935.  Its 49,000 acres were formed by the deposition of sediment carried by the Mississippi River.  This area combines the warmth of the Gulf and the wealth of the river.  Its lush vegetation is the food source for a multitude of fish, waterfowl and animals.  Delta is the winter home for hundreds of thousands of snow geese, coots and ducks.

Public Notice: The refuge asked for public input on the "Wetlands Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment" created through a Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration settlement of a previous oil spill. The Final restoration plan is located here.

Directions to the Refuge Office: The refuge sub-headquarters office is located near the mouth of the Mississippi River. The office is located in Venice, LA, on Highway 23 south. There is no vehicular access to the refuge. It is accessible only by boat.

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

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

Managment Goals: Waterfowl habitat management, marsh restoration and management and oversight of oil and gas development and production.

A Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for Delta and Breton NWR's has been completed. The document 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. If you want a paper copy, contact the refuge office at 985-882-2000.

Opportunities for Public Use: The refuge lands are accessible only by boat. Despite this limitation, the area has a long record of public use. The majority of this public use has been in the form of consumptive uses such as hunting, fishing, and trapping.

Numerous recreational opportunities are available. Hunting programs allow the use of renewable natural resources. Sport fishing is enjoyed by numerous visitors. Other public use includes wildlife observation, canoeing and kayaking and photography. Camping is not allowed on the refuge.

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.

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

Document Name
Click to Open or Download
Refuge Fact Sheet
Additional facts about the refuge
Download document here
Hunting and Fishing Regulations and Map
Hunting and fishing regulations, map, hunting permit and map of hunting areas. Note: No camping is allowed.
Download document here
Refuge Boundary Map
Downloadable into Google Earth (tm), this map shows the refuge boundary
Download document here
Downloadable Map of refuge boundary geo referenced

QR code of geo referenced map of refuge

QR code
Large Format Map
24" x 48" laminated map available for purchase from the Friends of Louisiana Refuges at the Bayou Lacombe Center
Download document here

Click here to get the Adobe Reader

Endangered and Threatened Species on the Refuge: American alligator, Arctic peregrine falcon and piping plover. The Western Gulf Coast population of Brown Pelcans (Pelecanus occidentalis) was delisted in 2010. The brown pelican is a year-round resident of southeast Louisiana. To learn more about the brown pelican and our programs to support them, go to our Pelican Web. 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.

Other Wildlife Species: Delta NWR supports a wide variety of wildlife species. Tens of thousands of wintering waterfowl take advantage of the rich food resources found in the delta. Large numbers of other bird species can be found on the refuge, with numbers peaking during the spring and fall migrations. Large numbers of wading birds nest on the refuge, and thousands of shorebirds can be found on tidal mudflats and deltaic splays. Numerous furbearers and game mammals are year-round residents, and the marshes and waterways provide year-round and seasonal habitat for a diversity of fish and shellfish species.

Photo of avocets and a black-necked stilt resting on a sandbar
© Tom Carlisle

Thousands of shorebirds use the refuge as a wintering area and also as a resting and staging area during migration. Commonly observed species include greater and lesser yellowlegs, long-billed dowitchers, dunlins, western sandpipers, avocets, black-necked stilts, Wilson's plovers, killdeer and willets.

Raptors are a common sight on Delta NWR. The most commonly observed species include American kestrels, northern harriers, red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures. Black vultures, Cooper's hawks, merlins, red-shouldered hawks and sharp-shinned hawks have also been seen on the refuge. Ospreys are common winter visitors to the refuge.

Untold numbers of passerine birds (songbirds) utilize the refuge as a resting and staging area during the spring and fall migrations. Deer are frequently observed by the refuge staff on the natural pass banks, manmade spoil banks, and the marshes associated with these features. Swamp rabbits are found over much of the refuge, and populations appear to be stable. A number of furbearing species make their homes on Delta NWR. The most abundant of these is the nutria.

The marshes and waterways of the Delta NWR support a diversity of fish species. Speckled trout, redfish, flounder, blue crabs and shrimp are important saltwater species found on the refuge. Catfish, largemouth bass, and various sunfish species are found in the freshwater areas of the refuge. Delta NWR is an extremely important nursery area for both fresh and saltwater fish species.

Photo of American alligator
Credit USFWS

Habitat Description: Delta NWR was established in 1935 in the active delta at the mouth of the Mississippi River. It comprises approximately 48,800 acres of marshlands and open water in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. The primary purpose of the refuge was to provide sanctuary and habitat for wintering waterfowl.

The marsh habitat on Delta NWR is classified as Palustrine Emergent Wetlands. Two basic marsh zones occur within the marsh habitat: fresh marsh nearest the main tributaries and brackish marsh near the Gulf of Mexico.

The fresh marsh is located primarily on mineral soil and to a very limited extent, flotant marsh (i.e., floating mats of emergent vegetation). Approximately 60% of the refuge consists of the fresh marsh zone. The predominant plants are delta duck potato (Sagittaria platyphylla), elephant ear (Colocasia antiquorum), wild millet (Echinocloa crusgalli), delta three-square (Scirpus deltarum), and roseau cane (Phragmites sp.). The marsh is tidally influenced and water levels fluctuate from a few inches to a foot or more. The fertile soils, vegetative composition and shallow water environment create a highly productive habitat for fish and wildlife.

Hurricane Katrina: Delta National Wildlife Refuge took a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina. Facilities at the refuge sub-headquarters office located in Venice, LA were severely damaged. The refuge itself was also changed in many ways, as it has over the years when hurricanes and tropical storms have hit the area. Marsh and beach areas were eroded, trees were blown down or damaged, debris was washed onto the refuge and vegetation was stressed by saltwater intrusion. Several oil spills and a grounded barges impacted the refuge. The refuge has slowly adjusted and recovered from the hurricane.

Delta National Wildlife Refuge CD: "Discovering the Delta - An Interactive Exploration of Delta National Wildlife Refuge." This educational CD-ROM is now available free of charge. Click here 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.

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

Last Updated on August 14, 2014