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Upper Ouachita
National Wildlife Refuge

11372 Highway 143
Farmerville, LA   71363 - 0201
E-mail: northlarefuges@fws.gov
Phone Number: 318-726-4400
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Bald eagles, like this parent and chick on Upper Ouachita, are making a comeback on North Louisiana NWRs.
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Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge

Upper Ouachita NWR, established in 1978, consists of 42,594 acres located in Union and Ouachita Parishes. The legislative purposes for the refuge are to conserve wetlands and manage for migratory birds. The refuge is bisected by the scenic Ouachita River and consists of upland pine-hardwood and bottomland hardwood forest; agriculture, moist-soil wetlands, and open water. Upper Ouachita NWR provides excellent wintering habitat for tens of thousands of ducks and geese. The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and the threatened Louisiana black bear are found here. Other wildlife species that call the refuge home include alligators, deer, turkey, squirrels, bald eagles and beavers. Upper Ouachita NWR is one of the five refuges managed in the North Louisiana Refuges Complex.

Habitat management focuses primarily on reforestation, controlling invasive species, prescribed burning of upland pine forest, thinning of upland and bottomland forest, maintaining moist-soil units, and farming for waterfowl foraging habitat.

Getting There . . .
Although Upper Ouachita NWR does not have a visitor center, many points of access are available to the public. Access Finch Bayou Recreation area and the scenic River Road on the west side of the refuge by way of La. Hwy 143. From Haile, Louisiana, turn east on Hooker Hole Road. Drive four miles and turn north onto River Road. Visitors can access the east side of the refuge in Morehouse Parish by way of Bastrop, Louisiana. From U.S. Hwy 165 turn west on Hang Out Road and travel 5 miles. Turn left on Meter Station Road. Go straight into the parking lot. For more access points onto the refuge, refer to a refuge brochure. Refuge headquarters are located on DArbonne NWR.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Upper Ouachita NWR is almost entirely bottomland hardwood forest, except for newly acquired upland pine/hardwood forest on the western side of the refuge.

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Established in 1975, Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge is located in Union and Morehouse Parishes in north-central Louisiana. This 41,430 acre refuge, which is bisected by the scenic Ouachita River, consists of 15,941 acres of bottomland hardwood forest. The western side of the refuge now includes 3,709 acres of mixed pine hardwood forest purchased from 1998-2003 for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. The 16,000 acres located on the east side of the river were purchased in 1997 and converted from agricultural (rice) fields back to bottomland hardwood forest. This is the largest single tract bottomland hardwood reforestation project in the country.

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Management Activities
Prescribed burns

Prescribed burning is conducted in the upland pine-dominated forests primarily for the benefit of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Other reasons for prescribed fire are to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and to promote the historic, fire-maintained forest with native herbaceous grasses and wildflowers. A prescribed fire management prescription is written and approved before each burn. These prescriptions specify the stringent parameters that must be met including wind speed, direction, humidity, temperature and other weather parameters. All burning specialists must be re-certified annually to meet federal standards.


Farming is used as a tool to provide high protein foods for wintering waterfowl. Flooded cropland is an important component of wintering waterfowl habitat because high-energy agricultural seeds are critically needed by waterfowl during cold periods and for migration and subsequent reproduction. Farming conducted on Upper Ouachita NWR usually consists of approximately 1,000 acres planted in rice or 200 acres in millet.

Moist Soils

Moist soil habitat promotes native herbaceous plants that provide seeds and structure for invertebrates. The management of moist soils usually requires the manipulation of hydrology and the disturbance of soils to produce a diverse stand of preferred waterfowl plants. Water is usually pumped and then drawn down at key times to germinate these preferred foods at the Mollicy Unit of Upper Ouachita NWR.

Silvicultural Treatments

Forest management includes the selective thinning of trees to improve species diversity, vegetative structure, and forest health. Thinning a percentage of larger trees allows sunlight to reach the ground causing regeneration of oaks and small understory plants that provide food for resident wildlife and structure for nesting songbirds.

Invasive Species Control

Imperative to any habitat management program is the control and if possible, eradication of exotic, invasive plants. Invasives are not native and have no natural limiting factors allowing these plants to invade and often out compete native plants. Usually invasives are plants that originate in Asia or South America and have been brought to the United States to be sold in nurseries as ornamentals. These invasive plant species are often sought after for their beautiful flowers or foliage by landscapers. Their ability to grow extremely quickly and live in many different habitat types allows these plants to out compete native vegetation, thus inundating a forest. Invasive species that are of extreme concern and found on Upper Ouachita NWR include Chinese tallowtree, Japanese climbing fern, mimosa, Chinese privet and Japanese wisteria. These plants are treated mechanically and chemically to prevent their spread.

Restoration of Bottomland Hardwood Forest

When the Mollicy Unit was acquired in 1997, the refuge began reforestation efforts. Over 10,000 acres of trees have been planted, making this the largest bottomland hardwood reforestation effort in the country.

The next step in the restoration process involves reconnecting13,000 acres of the Mollicy Unit to the Ouachita River. In the late 1960s, the Mollicy Unit was cleared for the production of soybeans. The landowner built a 16-mile long ring levee around Mollicy to keep the river from flooding the area. In 2009-10, the Service intends to breach this levee in five strategic locations to allow the river access to its former floodplain. The Nature Conservancy has partnered with the Service to accomplish what will be the largest floodplain restoration project in the country. The ecological and public safety benefits of breaching the levee are numerous. The biological integrity of the refuge will be increased by allowing a more historic hydrological regime. Thousands of acres will become available for fish spawning habitat. The young planted trees will thrive in a natural flooding cycle. More habitat will be available to wading birds and waterfowl. The public will benefit by providing 13,000 acres of flood storage for the downstream city of Monroe, relieving pressure on Monroe levees during river flood stage events.