Plan Your Visit

Two young people exploring in a canoe

Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is rich in wildlife and recreation opportunities. Hunting, fishing, hiking, paddling, bird watching, nature photography, guided tours, and educational programs are ways you can enjoy the refuge.


Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge is on the northshore of Lake Ponchartrain between Slidell and Mandeville, Louisiana. The Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Headquarters and Bayou Lacombe Visitor Center are located at 61389 Hwy. 434 in Lacombe. To reach our headquarters and visitor center from I-12, take Exit 74 and travel two miles south. From Hwy 190, we are located just north of the traffic circle at the intersection of Highways 434 and 190. Download a map of the Refuge at the upper left sidebar.


The Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges administrative complex located at the Bayou Lacombe Visitor Center is open Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. The office is closed on weekends and all Federal holidays. For more information, contact refuge staff at (985) 882-2000.


The Bayou Lacombe Visitor Center exhibits, bookstore, and gift shop are open Thursday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. The center features interactive exhibits that highlight the wildlife and habitat of eight national wildlife refuges in the region. Two miles of trails and walkways meander the grounds to viewpoints of Bayou Lacombe, through a historic botanical garden. Visit in late winter to see a spectacular show of flowering camellias and azaleas. These trails are open to the public Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.


Lake Road is the southern end of Hwy 434 in Lacombe. This is a popular spot for fishing and crabbing on Bayou Lacombe. There is a free public boat launch into Bayou Lacombe near the end of Lake Road. A viewpoint at the road's terminus provides a beautiful vista of Lake Pontchartrain and its shoreline marshes.

The Boy Scout Road Trail Interpretive Site has great options for hiking on the Refuge. Take an easy stroll over a short looping boardwalk trail, or enjoy a four-mile out and back hike that travels from pine savannah habitat, past a marsh overlook and cheniers of oak trees to the edge of Bayou Lacombe. Watch for the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker along these trails in spring and summer. Take a virtual Google Earth tour of the trail at this link.

Lemieux Road Trailhead is accessed by turning onto Lemieux Rd from Hwy 190 between Lacombe and Mandeville. This site has a covered picnic area and short nature trails that wind through the forest to a marsh overlook.

Sapsucker Road off of Paquet Rd. provides access to an unimproved boat launch at an old pipeline canal. This canal travels through the marsh to Lake Ponchartrain. Only electric motors and non-motorized boats are allowed at this launch.


Visitors are welcome on the refuge seven days a week, during daylight hours. The refuge is closed at night, except as noted otherwise. The Bayou Lacombe Headquarters site is not open to fishing or hunting.

Hunters and fishermen must observe State and Federal fishing and hunting regulations. During hunt season, hunters may not enter the Refuge earlier than 4 a.m. and must exit no later than two hours after legal sunset. Waterfowl hunting must cease by 12 noon and all decoys and blinds must be removed by 1 p.m. During hunting season non-hunters are encouraged to wear hunter orange vests. Download specific Refuge hunting and public use regulations at upper left sidebar.

Night fishing, crabbing, and crawfishing are permitted from the bank and pier on Lake Road. Please don't litter your refuge — pack it in, pack it out.

Do not leave valuables in your vehicle.

Pets must be on a leash.

Bring drinking water, insect repellent and sunscreen.