Visitor Activities

Canoeists paddling in flooded bottomland hardwood habitat

Change is constant at Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge. Seasons, life cycles, and migrating animals make each visit to the refuge a new experience. There are a multitude of opportunities to experience wildlife at the refuge. What will your next visit unveil?

  • Hunting

    Hunter with a deer

    Hunting is an important wildlife management tool that the National Wildlife Refuge System recognizes as a traditional outdoor pastime, deeply rooted in America’s heritage. Hunting can instill a unique understanding and appreciation of wildlife, their behavior, and their habitat needs. At Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge hunting does not pose a threat to wildlife populations, and in some instances is necessary for sound wildlife management. 

    Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge public use regulations brochure

    Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge has one deer lottery hunt (Gun and Primitive Weapon). To apply for this lottery hunt, visit

    An Annual Public Use permit as well as a state hunting license are required to hunt the Refuge. 

    How to Get an Annual Public Use Permit

  • Fishing

    Fishing Visitor Activity

    Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge offers fishing on three ponds, which are open year round, except during annual quota primitive firearms and quota gun hunts. Please check refuge regulations for dates. Some areas may be closed due to seasonal flooding. Fishing must be in accordance with state and refuge regulations. A state fishing license and an Annual Public Use Permit are required.

    How to Get an Annual Public Use Permit.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    Wildlife Viewing visitor activity

    Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to view a variety of wildlife including waterfowl, deer, small mammals, amphibians and birds.

    The fall and spring migrations bring numerous songbirds and wading birds to the refuge. Summer months are a great time to observe large numbers of wading and shorebirds.

    The National Wildlife Refuge System’s extensive trail system, boardwalks, observation decks, hunting and photography blinds, fishing piers and boat launches encourage visitors to discover America’s best wildlife spectacles.

  • Environmental Education

    Environmental Education Visitor Activity

    Refuges provide unique and exciting outdoor classrooms – excellent locations for hands-on learning activities. While there are no scheduled environmental education programs at Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge, lesson plans and additional materials about Environmental Education, as well as resources for teachers are available here.

  • Photography

    Photography visitor activity

    You don’t need to buy expensive equipment or have any experience to get started with outdoor photography. A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors. There are numerous photography opportunities along the Blackfork Walking Trail and Big Cypress Trail. Be on the lookout for wading birds, turtles, alligators, etc. as you drive along the refuge road.

  • Nature Trails

    Nature Trails Visitor activity

    “In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks.” – John Muir

    One of the best ways to view wildlife is to take a short walk on one of the two designated nature trails (Big Cypress Trail and Blackfork Walking Trail).

    BIG CYPRESS TRAIL – The Big Cypress Trail is a short .75 mile round-trip trail through a unique mixture of bottomland hardwood forest. The destination is the National Champion Bald Cypress tree, an extraordinary landmark to the state of Louisiana. It is the largest tree east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Parking is located at the trailhead 4.6 miles from the main gate. This easy, short walk guides you to a boardwalk and platform where hikers can view this natural landmark. The trail is in a "no hunting zone" and allows foot traffic only.

    BLACKFORK WALKING TRAIL – The Blackfork Walking Trail, created and maintained by the Louisiana Hiking Club, is a 2.5 mile trail that winds through the cypress forest of Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge. The trail, marked by white diamond-shaped plaques, is an easy walk over relatively flat terrain. The trail starts from the refuge road, 1.7 miles from the main gate, with parking across from the trailhead. Less than a mile from the trailhead the trail splits around a short loop following Blackfork Bayou. Blackfork Walking Trail passes by spectacular, large old-growth cypress trees. The trail is in a "no hunting zone" and allows foot traffic only.

    To ensure that all visitors have an opportunity to enjoy the hiking trails, please follow these guidelines:
    - Stay on marked trails to help prevent erosion and damage to plants
    - Leave all plants for others to enjoy
    - Keep all pets on a leash
    - Bicycles are not allowed on the trails
    - Motorized vehicles of any kind are not allowed on the trails
    - Do not litter. Pack it in, pack it out
    - To see more wildlife, be as quiet as possible
    - Insect repellent is advised spring through fall
    - Be aware of snakes during warm weather

  • Cat Island NWR Map

    Cat Island NWR Trails Map promo small image

    View the hiking/walking trails and ATV trails on the Cat Island NWR map.

    Go west on Highway 66 from Highway 61 (north of St. Francisville). After 1.5 miles, turn left on Solitude Rd. Go about 3.5 miles and then turn right at the refuge sign. Follow the signs to the refuge from there (about 1.5 miles). Enjoy your visit to Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge!

    To view a larger map and to get the PDF file of the map, see and click on the "Learn More" link below.

    Learn More
  • Canoeing/Kayaking

    canoeing and Kayaking visitor activity

    When the refuge is flooded, visitors can enjoy a unique journey through the refuge. Relax and enjoy as you slowly wind your way through the beautiful cypress-tupelo swamps of Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge. Visitors should bring lifejackets when canoeing or kayaking on the refuge. There are no canoes or kayaks available for rent on the refuge.