The refuge's piney woods, bayous, and marshes are a haven for wildlife and a great place to enjoy the outdoors. Hunting, fishing, hiking, paddling, bird watching, nature photography, guided tours, and educational programs are ways you can enjoy the refuge. The Bayou Lacombe Visitor Center in Lacombe is a gateway to exploring the Southeast Louisiana Refuges, with exhibits, maps and a nature store. The Visitor Center is currently closed.
Location and Contact Information
Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1994, is located along the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain between the towns of Mandeville and Slidell, in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. Refuge habitats include lake shoreline, near shore grass beds, freshwater and intermediate marsh, bald cypress-tupelo forest, bayous, hardwood forest hammocks, and long-leaf pine savannah. These habitats support freshwater and marine fish, shorebirds, wading birds, seventeen species of wintering migratory waterfowl, neotropical songbird migrants, and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
Bayou Lacombe Center, the headquarters for Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges, sits on 110 acres along Bayou Lacombe. Once a horticultural attraction called Bayou Gardens, today the site hosts administrative offices for nine southeast Louisiana refuges, easy walking trails, and a Visitor Center. 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. *Please note- the Visitor Center is currently closed due to an abundance of caution in order to protect public health due to Covid-19 concerns.
From self-guided interpretive trails to ranger-led programs, we'll help you learn more about the wildlife and habitat of the refuge. Follow us on Facebook to get notice of our upcoming tours and interpretive programs.
What We Do
Wildlife conservation is at the heart of what we do. It drives the work we do on lands and waters managed within the National Wildlife Refuge System, from the purposes for which a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered, to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, the Refuge System manages Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species.
Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge has over 18,000 acres of marsh, offshore grass beds, hardwood hammocks, and pine flatwood forests. The marshes provide habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl, serve as critical spawning and nursery habitat for fresh and saltwater fish. Upland habitat on the refuge provides a stopover for neotropical songbirds and habitat for the federally threatened red-cockaded woodpecker.
Projects and Research
The refuge conducts independent research and works with a number of universities, other government organizations and citizen science projects to conduct research on the refuge. These studies improve our understanding of the natural world and evaluate the effectiveness of our management practices.