Visitor Activities

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Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge offers many different opportunities for outdoor recreation. Whether you enjoy hunting, fishing, or wildlife observation, the refuge offers activities for every age and interest.

  • Hunting

    Hunting is an important wildlife management tool that the National Refuge System recognizes as a healthy, 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 Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge hunting does not pose a threat to wildlife populations, and in some instances are necessary for sound wildlife management. An Annual Public Use permit is required.

    Permits are available online, in person or by mail.
    ONLINE – to purchase an Annual Public Use Permit online, visit

    IN PERSON – Permits are available at the refuge headquarters and at various sales outlets. Call the refuge office for more information.

    MAIL – No Permits by mail!!

    To find out more about hunting opportunities, seasons and regulations, please check out our current Hunting Regulations.

  • Fishing

    In addition to the conservation of wildlife and habitat, the Refuge System offers a wide variety of quality fishing opportunities.  Fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the Refuge System.  Every year, about 7 million anglers visit national wildlife refuges, where knowledgeable staff and thousands of volunteers help them have a wonderful fishing experience.

    Quality fishing opportunities are available on more than 270 national wildlife refuges.  Visitors can experience virtually type of sport fishing on the continent.  From inconnu and grayling in remote Alaska, to snook hovering by mangroves in Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, national wildlife refuges offer anglers adventure and diversity.

    Sport fishing is permitted on Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge.  Only pole/line or rod/reel fishing for finfish is permitted. No snagging. Crawfishing and jug fishing on Headquarters Unit is prohibited. Cowpen Bayou and the Highway 28 borrow pits are open to fishing year-round. Muddy Bayou, Duck Lake and its’ tail waters, Willow Lake, Highway 84 and all other refuge waters are open to fishing and boating March 1-October 31. Only non-motorized boats and boating with motors of 10 horsepower or less are permitted on the Headquarters Unit waters. Small boats that are hand carried to the water may be launched at non-boat ramp sites. Boats may not be left on the refuge overnight.

    Fishing must be in accordance with State and refuge regulations.  Refuge anglers must obtain and possess a Refuge Special Recreational Activity Permit. 

    For a great place to reconnect with a favorite childhood activity or to try it for the first time, make plans to fish at a national wildlife refuge soon.  Find more information with our on-line Guide to Fishing on National Wildlife Refuge.

    For information on fishing Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge, look at our current Fishing Regulations.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    If you enjoy getting outdoors and looking for wildlife, consider a visit to your nearest national wildlife refuge!  From birding to whale watching, from viewing speedy pronghorn antelope or slow-moving box turtles, wildlife observation is the most popular activity for refuge visitors. View the Bird List Here.

    Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to view and photograph a variety of wildlife, including waterfowl, deer, small mammals, amphibians and birds.  The most popular facility on the refuge for wildlife viewing is the observation tower, which overlooks a lake that draws a variety of waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, and raptors.  The wildlife drive parallels Cowpen Bayou that provides a chance to see varied bird species, alligators, turtles, otters, and other wildlife.  Much of the wildlife drive takes visitors through a bottomland hardwood forest where bobcat, white-tailed deer, and feral hogs can be seen.  There’s also some bird watching along the dirt roads on the Bushley Bayou Unit.

    The fall and spring migrations bring numerous songbirds and wading birds to the refuge.   

    From every state and all parts of the globe, about 40 million people visit each year, especially for the chance to see concentrations of wildlife and birds.  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.

  • Interpretation

    Refuge System interpretation programs provide opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to the natural world.  From self-guided walks to ranger-led programs, many national wildlife refuges help visitors learn more about the wildlife and habitat behind the landscapes.

    In addition to staff and volunteers presenting programs to audiences, refuges use a variety of exhibits, signs, brochures, and electronic media to communicate natural history stories to visitors.  Printed and virtual information is often available on many topics, including plants and animals, seasonal migrations, habitats, refuge management strategies, and endangered species.

    Interpretation programs provide opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to the dynamic world of Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge. There is a variety of signs and brochures available for you to learn more about the refuge’s natural and cultural history. There are currently no scheduled interpretation programs offered at Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge.

  • Environmental Education

    National Wildlife Refuges serve many purposes, and one of our most important roles is as outdoor classrooms to teach about wildlife and natural resources.  Many refuges offer environmental education programs for a variety of audiences.  Refuges provide unique and exciting outdoor environments – excellent locations for hands-on learning activities.  Thousands of youth and adult groups visit every year to learn about a specific topic on wildlife, habitat, or ecological processes.

    Refuges provide unique and exciting outdoor classrooms – excellent locations for hands-on learning activities. There are currently no scheduled environmental education programs at Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge.

    Lesson plans and additional materials about Environmental Education, as well as tips for teachers and how to schedule a refuge visit are available here…

  • Photography

    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography.  That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate.  You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started.  A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

    Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and national wildlife refuges naturally are at the top of the list.  Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, and tour routes.  Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System.  We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card or internal hard drive!