Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge, located in east central Louisiana, was established in 1958 as a wintering area for migratory waterfowl. The refuge contains 25,162 acres divided into two units. The 6,671 acre Headquarters Unit borders nine miles of the northeast shore of Catahoula Lake, a 26,000 acre natural wetland renowned for its large concentrations of migratory waterfowl. The 18,491 acre Bushley Bayou Unit was established in 2001. The habitats found at this refuge is primarily lowland hardwood forest subject to seasonal backwater flooding from the Ouachita, Black and Red Rivers.
A diversity of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and fish can be found at the refuge. Waterfowl are abundant during the winter, with peak populations of 75,000 ducks recorded in some years. Catahoula NWR has been designated a Globally Important Bird Area; Catahoula Lake is recognized as a Wetlands of International Importance (RAMSAR site); a historic concentration area for shorebirds, waterbirds, and migrating/wintering waterfowl. Catahoula NWR also borders a portion of the Dewey wills Wildlife Management Area. Together, these areas provide a haven for wildlife and preserve representative samples of the unique habitats originally found in the Lower Mississippi River Ecosystem.
Catahoula NWR offers a variety of recreational opportunities for the public. Some of the most popular activities include:
Hunting opportunities include small game, waterfowl, and deer. A hunting, fishing, and ATV use permit is required for all hunters and anglers, age 16 year or older. This permit is also valid for Lake Ophelia and Grand Cote NWRs. Please refer to the current refuge public use brochure for seasons, limits, and other regulations.
Fishing is a popular activity throughout the state. At Catahoula NWR visitors may fish, and a fishing pier provides access for mobility impaired anglers. A hunting, fishing, and ATV use permit is requiref for all hunters and anglers, age 16 year or older. This permit is also valid for Lake Ophelia and Grand Cote NWRs. Please refer to the current refuge public use brochure for seasons, limits, and other regulations.
Wildlife observation and photography opportunities can be found throughout the refuge. Some of the best ways to view wildlife and take photographs include the auto tour route, hiking trails, boardwalk and the observation tower. Be sure to print a copy of the refuge bird checklist before you head out to the Catahoula NWR.
Catahoula NWR is open to the public year-round during daylight hours.
A $15 refuge permit is required for hunting, fishing, and using ATVs on the refuge.
Be aware that the summer months can be extremely hot. Before setting out to hike on the refuge be sure to have plenty of water, insect repellent, sunscreen, and appropriate footwear.
The best times for viewing wildlife are the early morning and late afternoon, when it is cooler.