In January 1964, under an agreement with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior acquired management rights in perpetuity and began managing in accordance with the purposes of the refuge, which were to provide for the public benefit, wintering habitat for migratory waterfowl, nesting and brood-rearing habitat for wood ducks, and protection for alligators.
The refuge is located in Choctaw County in southwest Alabama, 80 miles north of Mobile on the west bank of the Tombigbee River. The refuge boundary starts two river miles upstream from the Coffeeville Lock and Dam.
“to provide for the public benefit, wintering habitat for migratory waterfowl, nesting and brood-rearing habitat for wood ducks, and protection for alligators.”
The primary purpose of the refuge is to provide wood duck brood habitat and serve as a protected wintering area for waterfowl. Up to 200 broods of wood ducks are produced annually in the refuge's artificial nest boxes, and wintering waterfowl numbers can exceed 10,000. In addition, numerous neotropical migrant and wading birds benefit from management activities. Following a successful bald eagle hacking program in the early 1990's the refuge has played host to a nesting pair of eagles each winter. During the summer months wood storks can be found resting and feeding in the back-water sloughs and moist soil units. Resident wildlife includes white-tailed deer, gray squirrels, turkey, raccoons, opossum, American alligator, and beaver.