About the Refuge

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Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge is managed for the conservation, enhancement, and restoration of bottomland hardwood forests and important, associated upland habitats as an integral component of the Lower Mississippi River Ecosystem.

Upper Ouachita NWR, located north of Sterlington, Louisiana, lies on the western edge of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. It was established in 1978 to provide habitat for migratory birds. Additionally, the refuge provides habitat for alligators, forest interior songbirds, bald eagles, Louisiana black bear, the little known Rafinesque's big-eared bat, migrating shorebirds and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. The refuge is bisected by 18 miles of the Ouachita River, which is in the Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers System, and is the drainage for numerous creeks, sloughs and oxbow lakes. Cypress swamps, bottomland hardwood and upland forests complete the landscape that is habitat for a diverse group of plants and animals.

In years of normal or above rainfall, the refuge’s bottomland hardwood forest is a very important overflow area for the Ouachita River floodplain. High water levels, which usually occur between January and June, can flood up to 87% of the refuge. The wetland forests not only provide habitat to wetland dependent wildlife, they also reduce damage from flooding in developed areas, filter silt and other particles from the water, help neutralize pollutants and provide recharge areas for aquifers.