Visit Us

As one of the last remaining undeveloped, contiguous tracts of wildlife habitat on the northshore of Lake Pontchartrain, the refuge provides broad opportunities for public use. From waterfowl hunting in the refuge’s marshes, to fishing the bayous, to birding and wildlife photography, to watching the sunset over Lake Pontchartrain – there is something for everyone.

Interactive displays, exhibits, and friendly staff will introduce you to the rich natural heritage of Southeast Louisiana. Explore native wildlife and learn more about the habitats found at the National Wildlife Refuges in Southeast Louisiana.
 

THE BAYOU LACOMBE VISITOR CENTER

Located at the Southeast Louisiana Refuge Headquarters in Lacombe, the visitor center features a nature gift shop and interactive exhibits highlighting the wildlife and habitats of nine national wildlife refuges in the region.  Free Admission.

(THE VISITOR CENTER IS CURRENTLY CLOSED).

 
 
BAYOU LACOMBE CENTER GROUNDS & TRAILS 

The visitor center and the headquarters of the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges are located on an 110 acre site which was a popular camellia nursery and horticultural attraction in the 1950's. Several trails and walkways meander these grounds to viewpoints of Bayou Lacombe. Visit in January - March to see an often spectacular show of flowering camellias and azaleas. Pick up a walking trail guide at the kiosk near the parking lot or visitor center and enjoy a self-guided tour. Trails are open to the public Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. 

BUTTERFLY GARDEN

Explore plants that add beauty to a garden and support our important pollinators. This interpretive garden maintained by the St. Tammany Parish Master Gardeners is located on the grounds behind the historic Borah house.

JUST FOR KIDS

Check out a Junior Ranger Discovery Pack at the visitor center! These packs contain adventure materials that will help children explore the exhibits, trails and bayou at the visitor center and grounds

ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE HOURS

The administrative complex located at the Bayou Lacombe Center is open Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. The office is closed on weekends and all Federal holidays. For more information, contact refuge staff at (985) 882-2000. (CURRENTLY CLOSED TO VISITORS)

DRIVING DIRECTIONS The refuge headquarters and visitor center are located in Lacombe, Louisiana, between Mandeville and Slidell. The center is situated at 61389 Highway 434 two miles south of I-12 (Exit 74) and just north of the traffic circle at the junction of Highways 434 and 190. 

For a virtual SITE tour and to explore the interesting history of this landscape check out this storymap.

 

POPULAR REFUGE ACCESS SITES

Lake Road at the southern end of Hwy 434 in Lacombe is a popular spot for fishing and crabbing on Bayou Lacombe. There is a free public boat launch into Bayou Lacombe near the end of Lake Road. A viewpoint at the road's terminus provides a beautiful vista of Lake Pontchartrain and its shoreline marshes.

An observation platform overlooks the marsh along the Boy Scout Rd. hiking trail.

The Boy Scout Road Trail Interpretive Site has great options for hiking on the refuge. Take an easy stroll over a short looping boardwalk trail, or enjoy a four-mile out and back hike that travels from pine savannah habitat, past a marsh overlook and cheniers of oak trees to the edge of Bayou Lacombe. Watch for the endangered Red-cockaded woodpecker along these trails in spring and summer. 

Lemieux Road Trailhead is accessed by turning onto Lemieux Rd from Hwy 190 between Lacombe and Mandeville. This site has a covered picnic area, a marsh observation platform and short nature trails that wind through the forest to a marsh overlook.

Sapsucker Road off of Paquet Rd. provides access to an unimproved boat launch at an old pipeline canal. This canal travels through the marsh to Lake Pontchartrain. Only electric motors and non-motorized boats are allowed at this launch.

Fritchie Marsh recreation access site is northeast of the Rigolets Bridge, east of Slidell. From the intersection of Hwy 90/Chef Menteur Hwy. and Hwy. 433, travel northeast 2.3 miles along Hwy. 90 and look for the kiosk and boat launch on the left (west) side of the road. See location on Google map here.

View a StoryMap with photos of these recreation access sites with a map of the refuge here.

 

Activities

Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is rich in wildlife and recreation opportunities. 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)

Trails

The Boy Scout Road Trail Interpretive Site has the best options for hiking on the refuge. Take an easy stroll over a short looping boardwalk trail, or enjoy a four-mile out and back hike that travels from pine savannah habitat, past a marsh overlook and cheniers of oak trees to the edge of Bayou Lacombe. Watch for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker along these trails in spring and summer.

The Boy Scout Road trail starts with a ½ mile, self-guided boardwalk. At the end of the boardwalk, you can choose to turn left toward the parking area or take the adventurous four-mile (roundtrip) dirt and gravel road to Bayou Lacombe. Look for the blooms of Louisiana wild iris along the ditches near the beginning of the trail at the parking area in March-April. The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker may be spotted along these trails in spring and summer. This small woodpecker sounds a bit like a pets’ squeaky toy and may be spotted near nesting trees which are marked with a white band.

Take a virtual Google Earth tour of the Boy Scout Rd. trail here.

Paquet Road, Sapsucker Road and the end of Lucille Road all have primitive trails/roads you can explore. At the end of Sapsucker Rd. next to the boat launch there is a gated road that leads west. This road connects with Boy Scout Rd.  These routes are not maintained and can be wet. During most months mud boots and insect repellent are your friends!

Related Documents

SELA-public-use-regulations-2021--2022-508

Southeast Louisiana Refuges public use regulations

Big Branch Marsh NWR Bird List

List of bird species found at Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

Other Facilities in the Complex

Big Branch Marsh 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.
 

Rules and Policies

To protect the public and natural resources the following activities are prohibited on Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge: 

  • Feeding, enticing, or disturbing alligators or any other wildlife
  • Air-thrust boats, motorized pirogues, mud boats, and go-devils
  • Camping
  • Target shooting
  • Possession or use of toxic lead shot while hunting on the refuge
  • Taking, collecting, or injuring wildlife or plants 
  • Use of trotlines, jug lines, gill nets, hoop nets, slat boxes, and commercial fishing of any kind
  • Motorized vehicles off public roads, designated trails, and parking areas 
  • Horseback riding and ATVs
  • Use of drones

Non-emergency complaints of violation on refuge lands should be reported to Refuge Law Enforcement, (985) 882-2041. To report general wildlife violations in the State of Louisiana: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Operation Game Thief Hotline: 800-442-2511.

Locations

Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge
C/O Southeast Louisiana Refuges 61389 Highway 434 Lacombe, LA 70445-2667

Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge is on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain between Slidell and Mandeville, Louisiana.

The Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Headquarters and Bayou Lacombe Visitor Center are located at 61389 Hwy. 434 in Lacombe.

POPULAR REFUGE ACCESS SITES

Bayou Lacombe Center The headquarters for Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges sits on 90 acres along Bayou Lacombe. Once a horticultural attraction called Bayou Gardens, and later a Redemptorist Order Seminary, 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.

Lake Road is the southern end of Hwy 434 in Lacombe. This is a popular spot for fishing and crabbing on Bayou Lacombe. There is a free public boat launch into Bayou Lacombe near the end of Lake Road. A viewpoint at the road's terminus provides a beautiful vista of Lake Pontchartrain and its shoreline marshes.

The Boy Scout Road Trail Interpretive Site has the best options for hiking on the Refuge. Take an easy stroll over a short looping boardwalk trail, or enjoy a four-mile out and back hike that travels through pine savannah habitat, past a marsh overlook and cheniers of oak trees to the edge of Bayou Lacombe. Watch for the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker along these trails in spring and summer. Take a virtual Google Earth tour of the trail at this link.

Lemieux Road Trailhead is accessed by turning onto Lemieux Rd from Hwy 190 between Lacombe and Mandeville. This site has a covered picnic area and a short nature trail that circles through a forest to a marsh overlook.

Sapsucker Road off of Paquet Rd. provides access to an unimproved boat launch at an old pipeline canal. This canal travels through the marsh to Lake Pontchartrain. Only electric motors and non-motorized boats are allowed at this launch. About 1200 feet in from the start of Sapsucker Rd. there is an unimproved walking trail on an old road, which begins behind a locked gate.

Fritchie Marsh recreation access site is northeast of the Rigolets Bridge, east of Slidell. From the intersection of Hwy 90/Chef Menteur Hwy. and Hwy. 433, travel northeast 2.3 miles along Hwy. 90 and look for the kiosk and boat launch on the left (west) side of the road. See location on Google map at this link.

With over five miles of walking trails at Boy Scout Road and almost four miles of more primitive trails near Paquet Road, Sapsucker Road, and at the end of Lucille Road — and miles of bayous, lakeshore and marshes — you are bound to spot wildlife. Watch for waterfowl, shorebirds, neotropical migratory birds, alligators, otters, and deer. An elevated boardwalk nature trail at Boy Scout Rd. is a family-friendly gateway to nature exploration.  Print your own trail map or pick up a trail trail brochure at the Bayou Lacombe Visitor Center.