Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is a natural treasure on the northshore of Lake Pontchartrain north of New Orleans, LA. The refuge has over 18,000 acres of freshwater and brackish marsh, bald cypress-tupelo forest, bayous, hardwood forest hammocks, and pine savannah. The refuge's marshes provide habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl, are critical spawning and nursery habitat for a number of fresh and saltwater species of fish, and help buffer local communities from storm surge. Upland habitat on the refuge provides a stopping place for migratory songbirds and a home for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

Visit Us

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 open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. 





Boat Launches 

Location and Contact Information

      About Us

      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. The Visitor Center is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. 

      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.  

      Our 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.

      Two red cockaded woodpeckers face each other on a tree limb with pine needles and blue sky visible in the background

      22 cm. Rather small black-and-white woodpecker with longish bill. Above black barred white. Below white with black spots on flanks. Black crown, nape and moustachial stripe border white cheeks and side of neck. Male has small red mark on the side of nape. Juvenile browner with variable extent of...

      FWS Focus
      A large reptile basking in the sun on a log over still water surrounded by green vegetation

      The American alligator is a large, semi-aquatic, armored reptile that is related to crocodiles. Their body alone ranges from 6 - 14 feet long. Almost black in color, the it has prominent eyes and nostrils with coarse scales over the entire body. It has a large, long head with visible upper teeth...

      FWS Focus
      Bald eagle up close with wing raised

      A large raptor, the bald eagle has a wingspread of about seven feet. Adults have a dark brown body and wings, white head and tail, and a yellow beak. Juveniles are mostly brown with white mottling on the body, tail, and undersides of wings. Adult plumage usually is obtained by the sixth year. In...

      FWS Focus

      Our Library

      Southeast Louisiana Refuges Annual User Brochure and Regulations

      Southeast Louisiana Refuges public use regulations

      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.