About Us

Upper Ouachita NWR, located north of Sterlington, Louisiana, lies on the western edge of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. It was established in November of 1978 “for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds” (Migratory Bird Conservation Act, 16 U.S.C. 715d); and for “…the conservation of the wetlands of the nation in order to maintain the public benefits they provide and to help fulfill international obligations contained in various migratory bird treaties and conventions…” (16 U.S.C. 3901b).  Additionally, the refuge provides habitat for alligators, forest interior songbirds, bald eagles, Louisiana black bear, the little known Rafinesque's big-eared bat, migrating shorebirds and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. The refuge is bisected by 18 miles of the Ouachita River, which is in the Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers System, and is the drainage for numerous creeks, sloughs and oxbow lakes. Cypress swamps, bottomland hardwood and upland forests complete the landscape that is habitat for a diverse group of plants and animals.

In years of normal or above rainfall, the refuge’s bottomland hardwood forest is a very important overflow area for the Ouachita River floodplain. High water levels, which usually occur between January and June, can flood up to 87% of the refuge. The wetland forests not only provide habitat to wetland dependent wildlife, they also reduce damage from flooding in developed areas, filter silt and other particles from the water, help neutralize pollutants and provide recharge areas for aquifers.

Our History

In about 1977, Pennzoil Producing Company, a major landowner in the Ouachita River area, began to sell its holdings. Morehouse and Union Parishes’ Police Juries suggested the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries as a possible purchaser. Without having the funds, the commission referred the Service as a possible purchaser and Service personnel began to work toward a purchase agreement. In early 1978, when the Service learned that Pennzoil was willing to sell most of its 26,130 acres in the refuge area, an environmental assessment was prepared and signed by the Service’s Regional Director on July 20, 1978. In November, the first acquisition was completed with the sale of 20,834 acres by Pennzoil. Only the surface rights to the land were acquired, with Pennzoil reserving in perpetuity all oil and gas deposits found under the land. The Mollicy Unit, which totals 16,191 acres, was purchased from one landowner in parcels from 1997-1999. Plum Creek Timber Company sold 4,939 acres to the Service on the western edge of the refuge from 1999 to 2004 and the Barrs and Glawson tract north of Mollicy was acquired in 2014.  Active acquisition continues on the Refuge today with smaller parcels.

Other Facilities in this Complex

Upper Ouachita NWR is part of the North Louisiana Refuges Complex which is headquartered at D'Arbonne NWR.