Louisiana Wildlife Refuges
Southwestern Louisiana is bayou country, a part of the Pelican State's "liquid land," as one writer described it. The Choctaw Indian name for creek, the bayou is ubiquitous in southern Louisiana. Countless in number, bayous very slowly distribute fresh water from the north into the huge flat marsh areas bordering the Gulf of Mexico from Alabama to Texas before fresh and salt water merge in the gulf.
Although a challenge to human occupation, Louisiana marshes have, nevertheless, played an important role in supporting two of the states largest industries—agriculture and oil and gas. Growers have constructed an intricate system of canals and pumps that make it possible for them to drain and then flood former marsh where they plant, grow, and harvest one of the largest rice crops produced in the United States.
Oil and gas companies have laid miles of plank roads across the otherwise inaccessible marsh on which vehicles and equipment travel to drill and operate the deep wells that dot the landscape.
The marsh is now playing another role, one that is becoming recognized as being just as important to the long-term economy of the region as agriculture and mineral extraction. Although just becoming important economically, this role is as old as the marsh itself: Providing habitat for large numbers of birds and sustaining an intriguing community of uniquely adapted animals.
Tourists from every state and many foreign countries come each year to see the marsh wildlife, making tourism a growing Louisiana industry that is expected to help stabilize the state's troubled economy due to recent declines in oil and rice production.
The importance to migratory birds of the marshes in the southwest corner of the state led to the founding of 3 of the state's 17 national wildlife refuges: Lacassine and Sabine NWRs in 1937 and Cameron Prairie NWR in 1988. These three refuges are featured in a color brochure describing the Creole Nature Trail, a well-traveled automobile tour route established by the Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication