Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge
Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge borders the Gulf of Mexico for 26.5 miles and extends inland toward the Grand Chenier ridge, a stranded beach ridge, 6 miles from the Gulf. When the Rockefeller Foundation donated the property to the state in 1919, the refuge encompassed approximately 86,000 acres. However, beach erosion has taken a heavy toll on the refuge, and the most recent surveys indicate only 71,000 acres remain.
LDWF has conserved the wildlife and habitat on Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge through biological management for more than 100 years. Today, the refuge serves as a test site for marsh management strategies to limit saline encroachment, reverse marsh deterioration, and provide productive wildlife habitat. Staff also provide land management guidance to private landowners of marshland, as well as expertise regarding the wise use coastal wetlands and other wildlife and fisheries resources.
Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is nationally and internationally known for its pioneering wildlife, fisheries, and wetlands research. Since 1955, research staff and collaborators have published more than 350 research articles in peer-reviewed journals. Specific research topics vary but all generally focus on better understanding coastal wildlife (game and non-game species), fisheries, and marshlands. Information gained from these studies allows local, state, and regional authorities to better manage for individual species, communities, and habitats.
Some mineral development is also allowed on the refuge. Negative environmental impacts of mineral development have been kept to a minimum thanks to a cooperative relationship between wildlife managers and mineral production companies, and revenues generated from mineral leases help fund wildlife management on the refuge.
Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is known nationally and internationally for its pioneering wildlife, fisheries, and wetlands research.
Activities and Amenities
Trapping: No hunting is allowed on the refuge, but some regulated trapping is allowed for furbearers that could potentially damage the marsh if their populations are not controlled. Some alligator harvest is allowed as well.
Fishing and boating: Abundant fish and shellfish populations provide recreational opportunities to fishermen seeking shrimp, crab, red drum, speckled trout, black drum, and largemouth bass, among others.
There are two public boat launches—the East End launch is approximately 3.25 miles east headquarters on the south side of Hwy 82 (east side of north-south canal), and Joseph Harbor launch is approximately 3.1 miles east of headquarters on the south side of Hwy 82 (west side of north-south canal). The East End launch is closed from December 1–March 1 to limit disturbance to wintering waterfowl on the refuge. Joseph Harbor launch is tidally influenced, so launching a boat may not be possible with extremely low tides and/or persistent north winds. Canoeing and kayaking are not permitted due to safety reasons (potential interactions with large alligators).
Three new fishing piers/boat docks, including two that are handicap-accessible, opened in 2020.
Birding and wildlife viewing: Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is one of the most biologically diverse wildlife areas in the nation. The refuge is located at the terminus of the vast Mississippi Flyway. Recent surveys indicate that about 160,000 waterfowl winter on the refuge. Numerous shore and wading birds either migrate through or overwinter on the refuge. Neotropical migrant passerine birds also use the shrubs and trees on levees and other upland areas of the refuge as a rest stop on their journeys to and from Central and South America. Although Canada geese no longer migrate to the refuge from breeding areas in the north, a resident flock of giant Canada geese was established in the early 1960s.
Common resident animals include mottled ducks, nutria, muskrat, rails, raccoon, mink, otter, opossum, white-tailed deer, and alligators.
Education and research: College classes, other student groups, conservation organizations, governmental agencies, and graduate students may use the refuge’s lodging and laboratory facilities for education and research on wildlife conservation.
State of Louisiana
Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is located along Hwy 82 in Cameron and Vermillion Parishes. From the Lafayette/Abbeville area, take Hwy 82 West. From Lake Charles, take Hwy 27 south to Creole. Turn left onto Hwy 82 East. The refuge headquarters is located at 5476 Grand Chenier Hwy in Grand Chenier. You can access popular public areas directly from Hwy 82; Price Lake Road is one mile west of the refuge headquarters), and Joseph Harbor Boat Launch and the East End Locks are 3.2 miles east of the refuge headquarters).
- The visiting season on Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge will extend from March 1 to December 1 throughout the refuge except those restricted areas designated to prohibit interference with research and management activities. Use of Humble Canal; Joseph Harbor Bayou; Headquarters Canal; East End Road and Locks; Union Producing Canal; Deep Lake; East End Boundary Canal; and Rollover Bayou shall be year-round. In addition to this access, sport fishermen shall be permitted to enter the refuge from the Gulf side in Pigeon Bayou, Big Constance Bayou, and Little Constance Bayou. Access through these bayous will be permitted only as far inland as the existing water control structures. The remainder of the refuge shall be restricted during the winter months and will be closed to all trespassing.
- Use of the refuge will be allowed from official sunrise until official sunset. This includes access routes through the refuge.
- Overnight camping is prohibited.
- Hunting, pursuing, killing, molesting or intentionally disturbing any type of wildlife by the public is prohibited. This does not prohibit LDWF from carrying out harvest programs for certain types of wildlife as specified in the Deed of Donation and/or Memorandum of Agreement.
- Trawling on the refuge is prohibited. Trotlines, jug lines, trammel and gill nets and traps are prohibited. All commercial fishing and use of any commercial fishing gear on the refuge is prohibited. Twenty-five (25) pounds of shrimp (heads on) per boat or vehicle per day is allowed during the inside open shrimp season as established by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. Ten (10) pounds of shrimp (heads on) for bait purposes may be caught during the closed season. Shrimp may be harvested only by cast net on the refuge and only for sport fishing or home consumption use.
- Crawfish may be harvested from the open portion of the refuge and one-hundred (100) pounds per boat or vehicle is allowed per day. Set nets may be used but must be attended and removed from the refuge daily. No commercial harvest is allowed.
- Crabs may be harvested from the open portion of the refuge and twelve (12) dozen crabs are allowed per boat or vehicle per day.
- The burning of the marsh by the public is prohibited. Water control structures shall not be tampered with or altered by anyone other than employees of LDWF.
- Bringing firearms, bows and arrows, liquor and controlled dangerous substances (drugs) onto the refuge is prohibited. All boats and vehicles are subject to search by all authorized employees of LDWF at anytime.
- Speed boat racing and waterskiing are prohibited. All boat traffic shall honor no wake zones and shall keep wave wash to a minimum. Pulling boats over or around levees, dams, or water control structures is prohibited.
- No littering allowed. Visitors must remove their litter or place litter in appropriate litter disposal sites. Damage to or removal of trees, shrubs, and wild plants without prior approval is prohibited.
- Commercial fishing gear or trawls shall not be permitted in possession while participating in sport fishing on refuge. Commercial fishing gear may be in possession for non-stop access directly across refuge or for safe harbor only.