Delta National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1935, was initially created to provide a sanctuary for the many bird species found in the Mississippi Delta. The refuge is uniquely situated in the mouth of the Mississippi and while the sub-headquarters and offices are located in Venice, Louisiana; the actual refuge is another 7 miles south and only accessible via boat. There are about 48,800 acres of marshlands and open water that comprise the refuge. There are two primary types of marshes found within the boundaries of the refuge; about 60% of the refuge is considered a freshwater marsh, mainly near the main tributaries of the Mississippi, but changes to a brackish marsh when nearing the Gulf of Mexico.
The refuge provides a unique environment for wildlife as it combines the warm waters of the Gulf with the nutrient rich waters of the river to provide excellent lush habitat for a wide diversity of plants and animals. During the winter, thousands of shorebirds and waterfowl such as greater and lesser yellowlegs, long-billed dowitchers, dunlins, western sandpipers, avocets, black-necked stilts, Wilson's plovers, killdeer and willets, snow geese, coots, and ducks visit the Delta refuge. The brown pelican and threatened species such as the arctic peregrine falcon and piping plover also call the refuge home. And fish species of both fresh and saltwater habitats utilize the nutrient rich habitat.
Being out in the delta of the Mississippi River, however, places the Delta National Wildlife Refuge at the forefront of many storms, hurricanes, and other disasters. Several oil spills and collisions with barrages have impacted the refuge; and in 2005, Hurricane Katrina dealt the facilities a massive blow and changed the refuge itself in many ways. Yet, the refuge has adjusted and adapted after each incident and continues to provide a safe haven for many species of wildlife.