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SELA Refuges Programs

Southeast Louisiana Refuges Calendar of Events

The Southeast Louisiana (SELA) refuges sponsors or supports several events. Some of them are recurring events that draw large crowds every year. Some coincide with nationally or regionally recognized celebrations. See the event descriptions and photographs below for more information. Check back here and on the refuge web sites for updates.

Feel free to Contact Us about supporting, participating in or attending these events.

To be redirected to an updated calender, click the link 2015 Calendar

The annual events that we sponsor or support include

Work-Play Day – Bayou Lacombe Centre

– Bayou Gardens Open House– Bayou Lacombe Centre

Paddling Through Time Canoe Tour– Big Branch Marsh NWR

Photo Club Meeting – Bayou Lacombe Centre

Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges, Inc. Board Meeting

– Earth Fest– Audubon Zoo

Bayou Teche Bear Festival, Franklin

Step-Outside-Day– Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge

– Friends Outing –

Youth Fishing Event – Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge

– Summer Camp

Beach Sweep - Big Branch Marsh NWR

Wild Things – Celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week

– Annual Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges, Inc. Membership Meeting

– Cajun Christmas with Santa– Bayou Lacombe Center

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Work/Play Days

To see an idea of what type of work and play we do at this event, click on this Video.

Description: Work-Play Days consist of three hours of volunteer work, followed by a light lunch (provided by the Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges, Inc.) and a canoe adventure on Bayou Lacombe. The major focus has been on restoring Bayous Gardens (an historical garden) and in developing interpretative trails at Bayou Lacombe Centre. For reservations contact David Stoughton at 985-882-2025 ( or Jim Schmidt  (

When: One Saturday a month from January through May and in October. Gardening takes place 9:00 a.m. till noon. Lunch from noon till 12:30 p.m. Canoe adventure from 12:30 p.m. till 1:30 p.m.

Where: Bayou Lacombe Centre located at 61389 Hwy 434, Lacombe, Louisiana. From I-12, take exit 74 and go south for two miles to the Centre entrance.

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Canoe Tours - Paddling Through Time: People & Louisiana’s Wetlands

Description: These tours take place on select Saturdays listed above. This program allows individuals to experience the excitement of canoeing southeast Louisiana’s scenic Cane Bayou, while learning how humans have interacted with and changed the land over time. Trips will include both the natural and cultural history of the area and an introduction to canoeing techniques. Each excursion will last 2-3 hours, beginning at 9:00 am Saturday mornings. You must pre-register in order to participate.

The trip is geared towards adults, but children 5 and older may attend. Only children aged 10 and older will be allowed to paddle. The canoes have two seats for paddlers. Younger children will sit in the middle of the boats. All equipment and canoes are provided. Interested individuals should be prepared to paddle for 2-3 hours! There is no current and occasionally we will paddle into the wind. We will paddle out to Lake Pontchartrain and back with many stops to discuss the natural and cultural history of the area. We will be paddling for the majority of the trip.

A fee has been implemented for these canoe trips. Paddlers will be charged $10 and children 5 years old through 9 years old are $5. If you are a Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges, Inc. member, your cost is $5 per paddler. Checks should be made out to The Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges, Inc. or FLWR.

The fee will be paid to the Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges, Inc., a non-profit organization that supports the mission of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Fees will be used to maintain canoe equipment and hire seasonal interns to lead the tours.

The outings are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Individuals must pre-register to participate. Click here for the application form. There are two ways to register:

Mail an application and payment (check or money order) to:
Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges, Inc. –or- FLWR
Canoe Outings
61389 Hwy 434
Lacombe, LA 70445

Please print clearly on application!

Stop by the Southeast Louisiana Refuges Visitor Center in person to drop off an application and payment (cash, credit card, check or money order). The Visitor Center is open on Thursdays – Saturdays from 9:00 am till 4:00 pm. Applications may be dropped off in person Mondays through Wednesdays at the administrative building of the Southeast Louisiana Refuges office. They will be processed on the next date the Visitor Center is open. We can not accept credit card payment Mondays – Wednesdays.

After your application is received you will receive a confirmation email. If you have not received this confirmation email, you ARE NOT registered.

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Photo Club Meetings

Description: Meetings are generaly held quarterly throughout the year. Times and meeting locations may vary if photo safaris or workshops are scheduled. Contact David Stoughton ( for more information.

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Camellia Open House

When: Saturday, February 16, 2013 from 9:00 a.m. till 2:30 p.m.

Where: Bayou Lacombe Centre at 61389 Hwy 434 Lacombe, LA. From I-12, take exit 74 and go south for two miles to the Centre entrance.

Description: A huge variety of camellias, free guided tours and refreshments, and displays by members of area camellia clubs will highlight this year’s Camellia Open House in Lacombe.

The Centre includes the former Bayou Gardens, which contains hundreds of varieties of camellias along with other flowering trees and shrubs. Special garden tours will be offered on the half hour, beginning at 9:30 am, with the last tour at 2:30 pm. In addition to admiring the blooms, tour-goers will learn about the interesting history of the site. Visitors may also explore on their own throughout the day. Sturdy shoes are recommended for the paths and trails.

Special guests will include representatives of the Camellia Club of New Orleans and the Northshore Camellia Club. Club members will display blooms from their own collections, help visitors identify varieties they may have in their yards, and answer questions about camellia cultivation. They will also have several dozen camellia plants for sale in 3-gallon containers.

The event will be hosted by the Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges, Inc. a non-profit group that supports projects on area National Wildlife Refuges and has worked to restore Bayou Gardens. Members of the Friends group will be demonstrating a waxing technique for camellia flowers – a fun way to preserve the beauty of these spectacular blooms.

Flower displays, refreshments, and the starting point for tours will all be at the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges visitor center. The Center features wildlife dioramas and refuge displays, plus a bookstore and gift shop. Several trails are available on the grounds for additional exploration.

Bayou Gardens was created beginning in the 1940’s by former Louisiana Governor Richard Leche on grounds surrounding his home on Bayou Lacombe. By 1950 the gardens were being operated as a commercial tourist attraction and as a nursery for camellias, azaleas, and other plants. The gardens were later maintained by the Redemptorist order, which established the Holy Redeemer seminary school on the site in 1960.

Bayou Gardens is today part of the Bayou Lacombe Centre, an administrative headquarters for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southeast Louisiana Refuges office. Eight National Wildlife Refuges are administered from this location, including Big Branch Marsh and Bayou Sauvage.

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Wild Things

Photo of the exhibits at Wild Things
Credit USFWS

Description: Wild Things is our celebration of National Wildlife Refuge Week and is one of the most popular nature/conservation events in the region, with a spotlight on the National Wildlife Refuge System and our area wildlife refuges. Wild Things also welcomes over 30 other nature and conservation-oriented organizations to share displays, presentations, and hands-on activities with over 4,000 Wild Things visitors. Admission, parking, and all tours and programs are free.
Wild Things also features exciting speakers, live animals, wildlife-related crafts, continuous live entertainment, gardens and grounds tours, the Youth Wildlife Art competition and show (over 300 entries last year!), nature games for kids, and canoe and pontoon boat tours of beautiful Bayou Lacombe. Plenty of great food is always available, and new activities are added each year!

Wild Things is co-sponsored by the non-profit Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges. Food and drink sales at Wild Things help The Friends to support conservation and education projects on area National Wildlife Refuges such as the annual Youth Fishing Event, summer nature camps, bus transportation for school visits to refuges, habitat restoration, trail signs, and many other worthy projects.

Photo of the Wild Things Youth Art Contest display
© Donna Bush

When: October National Wildlife Refuge Week, the Saturday after Columbus Day. From 10:00 am to late afternoon.

Where: The Southeast Louisiana Refuges and Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters (Bayou Lacombe Centre) on Hwy 434 in Lacombe, LA. For more information, you may call us at 985-882-2000.



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Photo of the decoy painting activity at Step Outside Day
Credit USFWS

Step Outside Day

Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge co-sponsors Step Outside Day with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District. A long list of local and regional contributors also help us every year. Activities include antler shed hunting, longbow and cross bow archery, the bear maze, bird watching, boat rides, owl pellet dissection, fishing, nature photography, target and trap shooting and wood crafts. Exhibits include adaptive equipment, the birds of prey, black bear and alligator exhibits, dog training, trapping techniques, turkey and duck calling, turkey trapping and water safety. Lunches will be provided.

When: May. The second Saturday in May. This is the Saturday of Mother's Day weekend. From 9:00am to 3:30pm.

Where: The Sherburne Wildlife Management Area of the Louisiana Division of Wildlife and Fisheries. For more information, you may call us at 985-882-2000.

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Photo of kids and adults at the Youth Fishing Rodeo
Credit USFWS

Youth Fishing Event

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges will sponsor the 20th Annual Youth Fishing Event at Bogue Chitto NWR. on the frist Saturday in June from 7:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m. This popular event allows kids ages 4-12 to experience the natural world of the Refuge and the thrill of fishing. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Registration forms will be accepted beginning April 1 through May 1, 2014 unless filled earlier.

Participants in the fishing event will receive a T-shirt, rod-and-reel, tackle, bait and lunch. Prizes will be awarded in several categories. Many local and national sponsors contribute supplies, services and cash toward making this an exciting day for kids.

When asked how often they go fishing, many of the kids say, "The last time I was out was when you had this event last year." Every year, we stock the pond with 1,000 pounds of eating size channel catfish.

When: June 7, 2014. During National Fishing and Boating Week.

Where: The event will be held at the Pearl River Turnaround at Exit 11 off of I-59, north of Slidell, LA and south of Picayune, MS. For more information, you may call us at 985-882-2000.

You may obtain registration forms at the link below or in person at the Southeast Louisiana Refuge Complex offices at 61389 Hwy. 434, Lacombe, LA 70445, or by calling 985-882-2000. No phone reservations will be accepted. Completed forms with payment may be dropped off or mailed to the Lacombe office beginning April 1 and ending May 1, 2014. The office is open from 7:30 am - 4:00 pm Monday - Friday. The visitor center is open 9:00 am – 4:00 pm Saturday. The event is limited to 175 kids on a first-come, first-served basis and there is a $15.00 registration fee. Registration fees may be paid in cash or by check or money order payable to Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges. Please call (985) 882-2000 for more information pertaining to the 2014 Youth Fishing Event.

Click on this link to print a registration form

Click on this link for information to parents

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Photo of exhibits at the Bayou Teche Bear Festival
Credit USFWS

Bayou Teche Bear Festival

The Black Bear Conservation Coalition organizes the Bayou Teche Bear Festival. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge are annual supporters of the two day festival.

The mission of the bear festival is to educate the citizens of St. Mary Parish and the surrounding area about the Louisiana black bear, a species listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as "threatened" under the guidelines of the Endangered Species Act. The festival features all the activities associated with a typical Louisiana festival including music, food and good company, but also includes field trips, educational exhibits and children's activities relating to bears and the many other natural resources found in south Louisiana.

When: April. The festival is held on a Saturday and Sunday in mid-April.

Where: Downtown Franklin, LA. For more information, check the Bayou Teche Bear Festival web site or call us at 985-853-1078.

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Beach Sweep

Description: Every year The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partners with the Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges, Inc. and the Lake Pontachartrain basin Foundation to clean up waterways and beaches around the Lake Pontchartrain Basin. Volunteers are needed on the Northshore to clean Bayou Lacombe and the lakefront of Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. Litter will be picked up by foot and canoe. All equipment will be provided. Interested volunteers should email Park Ranger Diane Barth ( to register. The Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges, Inc. will provide lunch for all participants after the pickup. T-shirts will be given to volunteers until supplies run out.

When: Saturday, September 21 from 9:00 am.m to 12:30 p.m.

Where: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sea Plan Base off of Lake Road in Lacombe, LA

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Last Updated on March 27, 2014