Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge Updated:10/2013

Atchafalaya NWR, about 30 miles west of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and one mile east of Krotz Springs, Louisiana lies just east of the Atchafalaya River. The refuge was established in 1986 to provide for 1) conservation and management of all fish and wildlife within the refuge, 2) to fulfill the international treaty obligations of the United States with respect to fish and wildlife, and 3) to provide opportunities for scientific research, environmental education, and fish and wildlife oriented recreation, including hunting, fishing, birdwatching, nature photography, and others.

The refuge is encompassed within nearly one-half million acres of hardwood swamps, lakes and bayous. The natural floodplain of the Atchafalaya River flows for 140 miles south from its junction with the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. The basin's dense bottomland hardwoods, cypress-tupelo swamps, overflow lakes, and meandering bayous provide a tremendous diversity of habitat for more than 200 species of resident and migratory birds and numerous other wildlife and the area has been recognized as an Internationally Important Bird Area. The basin's wooded wetlands also provide vital nesting habitat for wood ducks, and support the nation's largest concentration of American woodcock. Eagles, ospreys, swallow-tailed kites, and Mississippi kites can occasionally be seen soaring overhead. Wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, gray and fox squirrels, eastern cottontail, swamp rabbit, gray and red fox, coyote, striped skunk, and opposum inhabit the refuge, as do a small remnant population of black bears. Furbearers found in this great swamp are raccoon, mink, bobcat, nutria, muskrat, river otter, and beaver.

The lifeblood of the fishery is the basin's annual flooding and dewatering cycle. Overflows occur during the winter and spring rains, with many areas gradually becoming dewatered during the summer and fall. Sportfishing is popular throughout the basin. Largemouth bass, white crappie, black crappie, warmouth, bluegill, redear sunfish, and channel catfish are the primary species sought. More than 85 species of fish occur in the basin, and their populations frequently exceed 1,000 pounds per acre. Red swamp crawfish and white river crawfish are also important for sport harvest.

Color Brochure with a Refuge Map (PDF 401 KB)

Getting There
Atchafalaya NWR is located about 30 miles west of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and one mile east of Krotz Springs, Louisiana just east of the Atchafalaya River. From Baton Rouge, take Interstate 10 East to the Whiskey Bay Exit; go north on gravel road (LA Hwy 975). Turn right on Bayou Manual, Happytown, or Big Alabama Roads until you see the refuge signs.

View Location on Google Maps

Recreation & Education Opportunities
  • Environmental Education
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Interpretation
  • Photography
  • Wildlife Observation
Management Activities
The 15,220 acre refuge lies adjacent to the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area. The public use on the refuge is managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries under a cooperative agreement. The refuge manages for special use and land management on the refuge. Forest tree planting, thinning, and selective vegetation removal are most of the forestry management techniques utilized to improve wildlife habitat for the Louisiana black bear, while minimizing or improving habitat for selected important neotropical migrants. Mature old-growth structured forests are also being preserved and created for species which require this habitat.

Greentree reservoirs and other seasonally flooded impoundments exist for the benefit of migratory waterfowl. Agricultural fields have been converted to native hardwood forests for both waterfowl and upland wildlife. A large increase in the production of wood ducks and hooded mergansers is being achieved through the use of artificial nest structures. Public hunting is allowed on the refuge for migratory waterfowl and upland and big game species. All seasons, rules, and regulations, conform to those of the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area.

Access is provided through bayous and a network of gravel roads and trails through the refuge.

Contact Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge

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Contact Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge

Southeast Louisiana Wildlife Refuges
61389 Hwy. 434
Lacombe, LA  70445
Phone: 985-882-2000

Service Area

Services provided in:
  • Iberville Parish, Louisiana
  • Saint Martin Parish, Louisiana