About the Refuge

Elevated boardwalk viewpoint over marsh

The woods, bayous, and marshes of Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge are home to diverse wildlife. Habitats at the Refuge include lake shoreline, near shore grass beds, freshwater and brackish marsh, cypress-tupelo forest, bayous, hardwood forest hammocks, and long-leaf pine savannah.

Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1994, encompasses 18,000 acres of habitat along the northshore of Lake Pontchartrain between the towns of Slidell and Mandeville, LA. The forests, marshes, and wetlands of the Refuge buffer these coastal communities from storm surge while creating habitat for many of the fish and wildlife species that make Louisiana a rich ecosystem and an outdoor recreationist's paradise. 

Refuge habitats support freshwater and marine fish, shorebirds, wading birds, neotropical songbird migrants, and seventeen species of wintering migratory waterfowl. The pine savannah habitat supports the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Wood Ducks, deer, rabbit, mink, otter, raccoon, alligator, and muskrat are year-round residents of the Refuge. 

Prior to refuge establishment, northshore wetlands were rapidly disappearing as urban expansion occurred. Several local organizations — including Northshore Coastal Watch, St. Tammany Sportsman’s League, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation — recognized the importance of these coastal habitats to the health and economy of the region and initiated a community effort that led to the establishment of the Refuge.

Click here to learn about conservation at Big Branch Marsh.