Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1984, is located in the floodplain of the Atchafalaya River, a tributary of the Mississippi that flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
The refuge's conservation objective is to sustain representative habitats of this region — bottomland hardwood forests, cypress-tupelo swamps, bayous, and wetlands — to provide high quality and diverse habitat to support neotropical songbirds, the Louisiana black bear, waterfowl, and other native fish and wildlife species.
Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bayou Des Ourses Area combine to form a 44,000 acre tract of wildlands, collectively referred to as the Sherburne Complex. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries owns 11,780 acres, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service owns 15,220 acres, and the remaining 17,000 acres is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The complex is managed as one unit by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Atchafalaya means long river in the language of the indigenous people of the area. Tribes with a history in the Atchafalaya Basin include the Chitimacha, Attakapas, Opelousa, Houma, Choctaw, Coushatta and Alabama, Tunica-Biloxi and Avoyel, and Tensas.
The mission of the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge is:
- To provide for the conservation and management of fish and wildlife within the refuge;
- To fulfill the international treaty obligations of the United States with respect to fish and wildlife;
- To provide opportunities for scientific research, environmental education, and fish and wildlife-oriented recreation, including hunting, fishing, and trapping, bird watching, nature photography.
Other Facilities in this Complex
Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Complex. Nine Southeast Louisiana Refuges are part of a rich ecological system which includes marshes, pine and bottomland hardwood forests, lakes, barrier islands, swamps and bayous. Ranging from the marshy delta at the mouth of the Mississippi, to the wetlands that help protect New Orleans from hurricanes and provide a nursery to the fisheries that support the region’s food economy, to the wild bayous of the Atchafalaya Basin; the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges preserve wildlife, habitat, and recreation opportunities representative of this unique part of the country.
All of the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges are open to public visits for nature-based recreational enjoyment. Priority public uses are hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, environmental education, and interpretation.
The refuge complex headquarters is located at 61389 Hwy 434, Lacombe, Louisiana 70445. This site also hosts the Bayou Lacombe Visitor Center and has walking trails that wind through an historic garden site and along Bayou Lacombe.