Big Branch Marsh is Big on Coastal Thrills
One of the most well-kept secrets in St. Tammany Parish is the Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. Residents have witnessed its majesty throughout the seasons and are quick to support any conservation and preservation efforts in the area; it is also why they are hesitant to tell everyone about it. They simply love the fact that they are home to one of only eight wildlife refuges in the state and guard it with a ferocity that uniquely South Louisianian.
Big Branch Marsh Is a Natural Wildlife Sanctuary
Hidden away in the sleepy little town of Lacombe, lies a natural sanctuary unlike any other. It started in 1994, when a group of Northshore residents were concerned about the speed of local development and the large population growth the parish was experiencing. They agreed to protect and enhance the coastal wetlands of the region at all costs. The Refuge now comprises as much as 19,000 acres of undeveloped Louisiana marsh and forested flatlands that are home to more native plant and animal species than any other park in the state. It seems they have accomplished their task!
One of a Kind Welcome
The former Redemptorist chapel that once stood on the grounds serves as the greeting place for newcomers and returning guests. It is a cross-shaped structure that has been transformed into a modern science and nature exhibition to celebrate the unique beauty and wildlife that can only be found here. Visitors can view dioramas, see specimen exhibits, and watch videos about the Refuge’s mission and wild residents.
Abundant Animal Life In The Big Branch Marsh
Several endangered species, including our national bald eagle, nest in these woods. Ornithology amateurs and pros will want to bring a pair of binoculars because there are flocks of brown pelicans, red-headed woodpeckers, egrets, kites, hawks, and turkeys, and a host of subtropical birds that will keep you enthralled for hours. There is always the chance to observe the annual migratory waterfowl that stop in the Refuge for sanctuary and feeding, as well.
The Refuge also happens to be home to many species of squirrel, deer, rabbits, snakes, turtles, and the occasional wild hog or bobcat. But be extra cautious of the American alligator which lurks in the brackish waters and preys on the smaller, weaker animals. It is advisable to see those creatures up close in the Refuge’s nature museum.
The Big Branch Marsh Offers Many Public Activities
In an effort to generate more respect and a greater appreciation of the Refuge, visitors have the ability to bike, hike, and canoe throughout the grounds. Photography is encouraged and some local artists find the Big Branch Wildlife Refuge a perfect setting for their work. For those who enjoy slower paced activities, there is always to chance to apply for a hunting or fishing license and capture their own game in the refuge’s confines
Camellia-lined trails contain such extreme variety and remarkable beauty that you quickly understand why the neighboring city of Slidell’s representative flower is the camellia. You might even run across the cemetery that contains the graves of former Redemptorist monks during your journey. It is a half-mile stroll on a boardwalk that meanders through the Refuge, so it is well worth your time to take it slowly. However, if you are feeling very adventurous, try the four-mile Boy Scout Road Tour. It can be pretty brutal on a sweltering summer days, though.
Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is exactly the place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in St. Tammany Parish and Greater New Orleans. Not only is it serene and peaceful, but it offers stunning sights and peaceful vistas that cannot be found anywhere else in St. Tammany Parish. Just be sure to respect the secret once you are in on it.
Visit the main website: http://www.fws.gov/bigbranchmarsh/ This is the Government site of the Big Branch Marsh.