Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge is on the northshore of Lake Ponchartrain between Slidell and Mandeville, Louisiana. The Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Headquarters and Bayou Lacombe Visitor Center are located at 61389 Hwy. 434 in Lacombe. To reach our headquarters and visitor center from I-12, take Exit 74 and travel two miles south. From Hwy 190, we are located just north of the traffic circle at the intersection of Highways 434 and 190.

To reach the Lake Road birding area from the junction of Highway 190 and Lake Road in Lacombe, take Lake Road south. After 2.1 miles, you will cross a bridge over a bayou. Continue south on Lake Road over this bridge. Birding from Lake road, south of the bridge is excellent. Lake Road continues 1.7 miles south through the marsh to its end at Lake Pontchartrain.

The Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge sits along the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain just south of Lacombe. Ponds and intertidal freshwater marsh habitats surround the Lake Road birding area. Marsh specialties include waterfowl (more than 20 species of geese, ducks, and scoters have been recorded), shorebirds (22 recorded species), and wading birds (15 recorded species). Common Gallinule, King and Clapper Rails, Least Bittern, along with Least and Gull-billed Terns, are some of the specialty birds that nest in the vicinity.

Bayou Lacombe lines the east side of Lake Road, and a smaller canal lines the west side. Numerous wading birds and seabirds use these waterways to commute to and from Lake Pontchartrain. Be on the lookout for Snowy Egret, Little Blue, Tricolored, and Green Herons, Bonaparte’s, Laughing, Ring-billed, and Herring Gulls, along with Caspian, Black, Royal, and Sandwich Terns. Black Skimmers nest in the vicinity and can often be seen as well.

Roadside parking is available along most of Lake Road, and designated parking areas are located at the free public boat launch on Bayou Lacombe and at Lake Road’s terminus on Lake Pontchartrain. There is also an information kiosk at the boat launch and an observation deck offering beautiful vistas of the lake and the surrounding area. This spot is popular for fishing, crabbing, kayaking, cycling, and photography.

A visitors center with restrooms is located elsewhere on the refuge. Another birding location in the WMA is the Boy Scout Road Trail Interpretive Site. 

Visitors Center/Nature Center