About the Refuge

Image cypress trees in swamp at sunset copyright Donna Bush

The Atchafalaya Basin is a vast and wild river swamp at the southern end of the Mississippi River Valley. Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuges' conservation objective is to sustain representative habitats of this region —  bottomland hardwood forests, bayous, and wetlands — to provide high quality and diverse habitat to support neotropical songbirds, the Louisiana black bear, waterfowl, and other native fish and wildlife species.

Atchafalaya means long river in the language of the native people of the area.


Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), established in 1984, encompasses 15,000 acres of bottomland hardwood swamp habitat in the vast floodplain of the Atchafalaya River, a tributary of the Mississippi that flows into the Gulf of Mexico. The Refuge's dense bottomland forests, meandering bayous, and cypress-tupelo swamps offer stellar hunting, fishing, paddling, and wildlife viewing opportunities. 

Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bayou Des Ourses Area combine to form a 44,000 acre tract of wildlands, collectively referred to as the Sherburne Complex. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries owns 11,780 acres, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service owns 15,220 acres, and the remaining 17,000 acres is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The complex is managed as one unit by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.