J.C. "Sonny" Gilbert
The unique habitat on J.C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA supports a diversity of plants and animals, including rare and endangered species. The WMA’s terrain is extremely rugged with high ridges dropping sharply into creek bottoms and elevations ranging from 35 to 245 feet above sea level. Four small streams, totaling approximately 10 miles in length, meander through the WMA. Big Creek, the longest of these streams, 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 main tree species are magnolia; sweetgum; blackgum; loblolly and shortleaf pine; hickory; elm; ash; white, southern red, cherrybark, water, and post oak; beech; red maple; and hophornbeam. The understory species include 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 majority of the WMA (approximately 6,180 acres) was established in 1980; LDWF purchased 2,021 acres of the property and 4,159 acres were donated. Between 1984 and 2002, LDWF purchased approximately 1,345 additional acres in various tracts.
Activities and Amenities
Hunting and trapping: Popular game species on J.C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA include white-tailed deer, squirrel, and turkey. The turkey population is healthy—LDWF holds an annual public lottery hunt for turkey on this WMA as well as an annual youth lottery turkey hunt on the weekend prior to the regular turkey season. There is also a youth deer season. Woodcock, rabbit, and raccoon are also available. See regulations for details.
Fishing and boating: The Boeuf and Ouachita Rivers provide boating access to the western portion of the WMA. There is an impounded 5-acre gravel pit which offers some fishing opportunities. A boat launch is available at the impoundment. Freshwater species including bass, sunfish, and catfish are popular with area users, but fishing is limited by lack of available aquatic habitat. See regulations for details.
Camping: There are two primitive camping areas on J.C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA.
Birding and wildlife viewing: Louisiana black bear frequent J.C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA; reported sightings have been increasing. Black bear research is ongoing on this WMA.
Birders often observe bald eagles and their nests in the area. Many neotropical birds visit the WMA every year, and the area is home to large numbers of passerine birds.
Hiking: There are three nature trails on J.C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA. The Big Creek Hiking Trail, located on the north end of the WMA, winds through 7 miles of 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 suited for the physically fit. St. Mary`s Falls Trail is also located on the north end of the WMA; it is a 1-3/4-mile trail 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 WMA; it is a 1-1/2 mile trail though through mature stands of mixed pine hardwoods. The waterfall along this trail measures near 17 feet and is reported to be one of the tallest in the state. These three trails offer some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities and natural beauty in the state.
Other: Horseback riding, berry picking
The unique habitat on J.C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA supports a diversity of plants and animals, including rare and endangered species.
J.C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA is located 6 miles west of Sicily Island. Major access routes to the WMA include LA Hwy 8 and 915. LDWF maintains a system of all-weather gravel roads and several ATV trails that provide access to area users. There are three self-clearing permit stations located at the WMA’s main entrances.