Big Branch Marsh, located in Lacombe, Louisiana, was established in 1994 with the goal of preserving the declining wetlands from the ever expanding New Orleans. Today the refuge consists of about 18,000 acres with habitats ranging from offshore grass beds, marshes, hardwood hammocks, and pine flatwoods. The refuge is boarded by Lake Pontchartrain, and the waters of its marshes are classified as brackish or intermediate marshes, meaning there is less salt in the marshes than is found in the Gulf of Mexico, but that the water is also not considered freshwater. These marshes thus, are a critical spawning and nursery for many species from both fresh and saltwater habitats.
With such a diverse habitat, the Big Branch Marsh provides a home to a wide diversity of plant and animal communities. Deer, mink, rabbit, otter, raccoon, muskrat, and nutria can all be found within the refuge; along with many species of birds and waterfowl including the Brown Pelican, Louisiana’s state bird. The waters also provide excellent habitat for the American Alligator and the Big Branch Marsh has worked extensively on protecting the Red-cockaded woodpecker, a species that had declined by about 99% since the time of European settlers due to habitat loss.