Size, Location and History
J. C. “Sonny” Gilbert Wildlife Management Area consists of 7,524 acres located 6 miles west of Sicily Island, La. Major access routes to J. C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA are Louisiana Highways 8, and 915 and the Boeuf and Ouachita Rivers provide boating access to the western portion of the area. The majority of the area, approximately 6,180 acres, 2,021 acres purchased by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, 4,159 acres donated to the Department by International Paper Co. in 1980. Between 1984 and 2002, approximately 1,345 additional acres have been purchased in smaller tracts through Act 18 of Second Special Session, Marsh Island Fund, Rockefeller Fund, Gen. Oblig. Bond, Wildlife Habitat Trust, State Duck Stamp, and NWTF Donations.
Description of Landscape:
The topography is extremely rugged with high ridges dropping sharply into creek bottoms with elevations ranging from 35 to 245 feet M.S.L. The area is unique and supports a diverse group of plants and animals including rare and endangered species. Four small streams, totaling approximately 10 miles in length, meander through the area. Big Creek is the longest which is a rapidly flowing stream with a sand, gravel and sandstone ledge bottom.
The forest overstory is a mixture of loblolly-shortleaf pine and upland hardwoods. The predominant tree species are magnolia, sweetgum, blackgum, loblolly and shortleaf pine, hickory, elm, ash, white oak, southern red oak, post oak, beech, cherrybark oak, red maple, water oak, and hophornbeam. The understory species includes Vitis sp., deciduous holly, Smilax sp., baccharis, flowering dogwood, rattan, huckleberry, oak leaf hydrangea, buckeye, blackberry, silky camellia, sourwood, downy serviceberry, Crataegus sp., and many other grasses and herbaceous plants.
The most popular game species is white-tailed deer, squirrels, and turkey. There is a substantial population of turkeys on this area and a public lottery hunt is conducted annually. A youth lottery turkey hunt is held each year on the weekend prior to the regular turkey season. Woodcock, rabbit, and raccoon hunting opportunities are also available. There is a five acre gravel pit that was impounded and stocked years ago and offers some fishing opportunity. Freshwater species including bass, sunfish, and catfish are popular with area users, but fishing opportunity is limited by lack of available aquatic habitat.
The Louisiana Black Bear frequents this area and the number of reported sightings and nuisance complaints received from adjacent private landowners are on the increase. Black Bear research is ongoing at J. C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA.
Bald Eagles are observed frequently on this area and nesting is documented in the surrounding area.
J. C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA is visited by many neo-tropical bird species annually and home to large numbers of passerine birds.
The largest user group of this area is deer hunters. The Department maintains a system of all-weather gravel roads and several ATV trails that provide access to area users. Several walking trails follow logging trails. A boat launch is available at the stocked impoundment. Three permit stations located at major entrances to the area are provided to meet self-clearance requirements. Two primitive camping areas and three nature trails are available for public enjoyment on J. C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA. The Big Creek Hiking Trail located on the north end of the area meanders for seven miles through stands of mature mixed-pine hardwoods and passes many scenic points of interest including several waterfalls. Hikers should be aware this trail is rugged and best suits the physically fit. St Mary`s Falls Trail is located on the north end of the area also and meanders for approximately one and three-quarters of a mile through upland mixed-pine hardwoods and passes several smaller waterfalls and scenic views. The Rock Falls Trail is located on the south end of the area and winds for approximately one and one-half miles through mature stands of mixed-pine hardwoods. The waterfall along this trail measures near seventeen feet and is reported to be one of the tallest in the state. These trails offer some of the best wildlife viewing opportunity and natural beauty in the state.
Other Public Use:
Please refer to the WMA rules and regulations for permitted activities. In addition to hunting, trapping, and fishing other common activities include boating, hiking, birding/sightseeing, horseback riding, berry picking, and, raccoon field trials.
Additional information may be obtained from LDWF, 368 CenturyLink Drive, Monroe, LA 71203. Phone (318) 343-4044.
J. C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA (Department Owned- 7,524 Acres, Monroe Office)