Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge Overview
|Atchafalaya Basin, Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge (US Army Corps of Engineers/Wikimedia)|
Deep in the heart of Cajun country, at the southern end of the Lower Mississippi River Valley in south-central Louisiana, lies part of the largest bottomland hardwood swamp in the country. The Atchafalaya River Basin is the nation's largest complex of forested wetlands.
This basin contains nearly one-half million acres of hardwood swamps, lakes, and bayous, and it is larger than the vast Okefenokee Swamp of Georgia and Florida. It is an immense natural floodplain of the Atchafalaya River, which flows for 140 miles south from its junction with the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. The fish and wildlife resources of the Atchafalaya River Basin are exceptional. The basin's dense bottomland hardwoods, cypress-tupelo swamps, overflow lakes, and meandering bayous provide a tremendous diversity of habitat for many species of fish and wildlife. Ecologists rank the basin as one of the most productive wildlife areas in North America. The basin also supports an extremely productive sport and commercial fishery, and it provides unique recreational opportunities to hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.
The 15,220-acre Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge was established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1984. It is located adjacent to the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area and managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries under a cooperative agreement with the state.
Efforts are underway here to construct greentree reservoirs and other seasonally flooded impoundments for the benefit of migratory waterfowl. Agricultural fields are being 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.
Hunting and Fishing
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 adjacent Sherburne Wildlife Management Area. The refuge is popular for hunting white-tailed deer and is especially noted for its youth and handicapped hunts. The refuge is open year-round for sportfishing in accordance with state fishing regulations.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication