Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge Overview
Although established in 1937 to provide wintering habitat for waterfowl, Lacassine NWR supports many communities of land and water wildlife. Located at the edge of Grand Lake and 15 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, the refuge covers 32,625 acres, nearly half of which is Lacassine Pool. This huge freshwater impoundment was built for waterfowl after the refuge was established and was later subdivided for better control of water levels.
The remaining areas are natural freshwater marsh, open water, and a small amount of upland. An undisturbed 3,300-acre area on the south edge of the refuge is a declared wilderness area. Both the Intracoastal Waterway and the American-Louisiana gas pipeline canal cut through the refuge.
Click here to view maps of the refuge.
New Facilities for Visitors, But Other Impediments Remain
Vicki Grafe, Lacassine NWR manger, is especially proud of the public support she received for funding refuge projects valued at $100,000, including donations of more than $30,000 from Ducks Unlimited and local private businesses. The money was used to install fully accessible fishing piers, an interpretive shelter and kiosk, parking lots, and a boat launch at Lacassine Pool. "Proud to have been involved is an understatement," says Grafe. The new facilities were opened in September 1994.
Grafe knows that more needs to be done to tell the public why wetlands are important, but an outreach agenda is not easy at Lacassine. The refuge has no visitor center or tour road. The headquarters is separate from the refuge, public restrooms are not provided, and the location is relatively remote.
Nevertheless, Lacassine attracts 20,000 visitors a year, the majority of who fish in Lacassine Pool between March 1 and October 15. Assistant manager Steve Emmons says that as many as 150 boats line up at the launching ramp on opening day and, when news of a 10-pound bass catch gets out, the number of fishers soars.
Water Birds Predominate in Predominately Water Refuge
Nesting ducks include mottled, wood, fulvous, and black bellied. Migrating ducks begin arriving in September and peak in December; green-winged teal, mallards, and northern pintails predominate. Ducks concentrate on Lacassine Pool, where hunting is not allowed and where snow and white-fronted geese also congregate, mostly at night.
One of the refuge rookeries can have as many as 9,000 tri-colored and little blue herons, great egrets, and white-faced and white ibis. White pelicans began nesting at the refuge over a decade ago. Roseate spoonbills are common in spring and summer, and a tremendous number of shorebirds are attracted each fall to the rice fields and crawfish ponds. The refuge bird list contains 228 species recorded since 1937. Recent exciting finds included groove-billed anis and a male vermillion flycatcher.
Controlled Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping Are Allowed
The refuge allows motorless boats for regulated waterfowl hunting in one designated area and archery hunting for white-tailed deer on the entire refuge. Two areas are designated for crawfishing; the entire refuge is open for seasonal fishing.
Issuance of alligator trapping permits and the annual auction sale are coordinated with Cameron Prairie and Sabine NWRs. The refuge staff maintains an alligator population database through regular tagging and monitoring. In 1992, the refuge alligator total was estimated at 7,200.
Large Contiguous Farm Could Become Part of Refuge
Grafe is working toward the acquisition of an additional 22,000 contiguous acres on the north side of the existing refuge. The area was originally prairie and marshland but has been drained for farming and grazing. It has historically been a prime feeding area for ducks, geese, shorebirds, and wading birds. At one time, both Attwater's prairie chicken and whooping cranes occurred there. Alligators are abundant. Some of the farmed tracts would be restored as natural wetlands while others would be farmed under a cooperative program with local farmers. Farmed fields are used extensively by waterfowl as feeding areas.
Without the refuge acquisition, much of the area would likely be continued in either farming or grazing, depending on market conditions, neither of which would optimize the habitat. The largest landowner is replacing rice farming with commercial grazing apparently because of excessive costs. Extensive gas exploration on the area would also be less controlled under private ownership.
If acquisition occurs, the 11-acre headquarters site will finally be connected to the rest of the refuge. Negotiations are continuing with the four landowners involved. The acquisitions are proposed for funding from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund.
Mini-refuge Program Makes Partners of Private Land Owners
The refuge staff has also enrolled a total of 20,000 acres of private land in what they call the Mini-refuges Program, a model of how habitat can be expanded to include rice and crawfish farms. To be eligible, an individual or a group of individuals must own a minimum of 640 acres and agree to give them prescribed flooding and prohibit hunting. In return, refuge staff will post the area with Mini-refuge signs and provide law enforcement from October through March.
Visitation to Lacassine NWR for wildlife observation does not reflect the vast amount of wildlife supported by the refuge. Until visitor facilities are improved, the preponderance of visitation will likely continue to be for recreational fishing. Until then, the more adventuresome will still come to drive its limited road system and to hike some of its miles of levees. Whether wildlife is seen or hooked, however, providing habitat for it remains the essential function of Lacassine NWR.
Public Use - Where and When
Office: Located at the end of Highway 3056. If traveling west on Interstate 10, take Exit 64 (Jennings) and travel south on Highway 26 to Highway 14 in Lake Arthur, west on Highway 14 for 7 miles to Highway 3056, then south 4.5 miles. If eastbound on Interstate 10, take exit 54 (Welsh) and travel south on Highway 99 to Highway 14, east on Highway 14 for 3 miles to Highway 3056, then south 4.5 miles. Open year-round. Weekdays Only, 7 a.m-3:30 p.m.
Lacassine Pool: Located at the end of Parish Road 7-5. Travel west from Lake Arthur on Highway 14 for 15 miles or east from Hayes on Highway 14 for 3 miles to Parish Road 7-5, then south 4.5 miles.
Access is allowed year-round from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset.
Boats are allowed from March 15 through October 15.
Unit B: Located at the end of Parish Road 127 near the refuge office. Travel 3.5 miles south of Highway 14 on Highway 3056 to Parish Road 127, then west 2 miles.
Access is allowed from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset from March 15 through October 31.
An observation area overlooking Unit B is open year-round from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset.
Other Units of the Refuge: Access is allowed in other units of the refuge from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset from March 15 through October 31. Certain areas may be closed for management purposes and are identified by closed area signs.
Disabled Access: Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to contact the refuge manager for information on special accommodations that are available.
Activities to Enjoy
Hiking: Although no designated trails have been developed, hiking is permitted on about 30 miles of levees and service roads in Lacassine Pool and Unit B near the refuge office.
Berry Picking: Picking berries is permitted throughout the refuge except when access in an area is closed for management purposes and identified by closed area signs.
Wildlife Observation: During winter months waterfowl may be seen in Unit B. In addition, many types of wildlife including waterfowl may be seen throughout the year from 4 miles of public roads in Lacassine Pool.
Boating: Refuge canals, bayous and waterways are open to boat travel during most of the year. A public boat launch is available in Lacassine Pool. Only commercial (fee) boat launching facilities are available for access to portions of the refuge outside of Lacassine Pool. NOTE: Motors are restricted to 25 horsepower or less in Lacassine Pool. Marshes outside of Lacassine Pool may be entered only by paddling and poling, not by the use of motors.
Fishing: Recreational only. Fish include bass, bowfin (choupique), bream, crappie, catfish and gar. Consult the refuge fishing brochure for specific regulations.
Crawfishing: Recreational only. Consult the refuge fishing brochure for specific regulations.
Waterfowl Hunting: Hunting is permitted on the 6,400-acre waterfowl hunting area. Consult the refuge hunting brochure for specific regulations.
Deer Hunting: Archery deer hunting is permitted on the refuge. Consult the refuge hunting brochure for specific regulations.
Ask if it is permitted before doing any activity not listed above.
Vehicles: All motor vehicles are restricted to designated roads and parking areas. Roads and trails may be closed at any time due to adverse conditions. Vehicles must be removed from the refuge at night. All-terrain vehicles (ATV's) are prohibited on the refuge.
Alcoholic Beverages: It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle or motorboat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Federal law also prohibits the use or possession of alcoholic beverages while hunting on national wildlife refuges.
Camping: Camping is not allowed on the refuge. Public camping is available at Myers and Garys Landings along Highway 3056 near the refuge office.
Littering: Littering is prohibited on the refuge. Please pack out all trash and leave a clean marsh. Marking trails with tape, ribbons, paper, paint, etc. is also prohibited on Lacassine.
Fires: Uncontrolled fires are a danger to man and wildlife; please help preserve the refuge by not lighting fires.
Collecting: Do not gather or take any plants, flowers, insects, firewood, artifacts, etc. Permits are issued for special activities.
Weapon Possession: Archery equipment and firearms in vehicles on refuge roads or in boats traveling through the refuge on State navigable waterways must be unloaded and either encased or dismantled. The only weapons and ammunition that may be possessed while in the field are archery equipment during the refuge archery deer season, and shotguns and non-toxic shot in the waterfowl hunting area during the refuge waterfowl hunting seasons. Possession of any weapon or ammunition on the refuge in any situation not listed above is prohibited.
Harassing Wildlife: All wildlife including frogs, turtles and snakes, both nonpoisonous and poisonous, are protected on the refuge. Do not feed any wildlife including alligators. The use of lights to observe or hunt wildlife is prohibited. Only hunting and fishing activities, which are authorized by refuge regulations, are permitted.
Trapping: Only alligator and furbearer trapping authorized by the refuge manager are permitted.
Pets: Pets are not recommended on the refuge because of the alligators. All pets must be kept on leashes. Hunting dogs used during the refuge waterfowl hunt must be under control at all times.
Swimming: Swimming is prohibited on the refuge.
Horseback Riding: Horses and horseback riding are prohibited on the refuge.
From I-10, exit 54 east of Lake Charles, south on LA-99 to LA-14. To get to Lacassine Pool, west on LA-14, south on Illinois Plant Road, which leads directly to pool. To get to refuge headquarters, east on LA-14, south on LA-3056 for 4.5 miles.
Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge
209 Nature Road
Lake Arthur, Louisiana 70549
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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