Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge
Beginning June 1, 2022, visitors must have a WMA Access Permit, Senior Hunting/Fishing License, Louisiana Sportsman's Paradise License, or a Lifetime Hunting/Fishing License to visit an LDWF WMA, Refuge, or Conservation Area, including Shooting Ranges, for any reason—boating, hiking, bird watching, berry picking, fishing, hunting, shooting, etc. The WMA Access Permit only covers access onto the property—it does NOT convey hunting or fishing privileges. Beginning July 1, 2022, all visitors must also comply with self-clearing permit guidelines.
Beginning July 1, 2022, all visitors must comply with self-clearing permit guidelines.
Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is nationally and internationally known for its pioneering wildlife, fisheries, and wetlands research. Since 1955, RWR research staff and collaborators have published more than 350 research articles in peer-reviewed journals.
The natural resources at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge have been conserved through biological management for more than 100 years. The property serves as a test site for marsh management strategies to limit saltwater intrusion, reverse marsh deterioration, and provide productive wildlife habitat.
Located in southwestern Louisiana, 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.
Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is not only a refuge for wildlife and fish species but also serves as an outdoor laboratory for collaborative research on marsh management and wildlife and fisheries resources, provides educational opportunities for groups of all ages, and is a top destination for outdoor recreation including wildlife watching and fishing.
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 saltwater intrusion, 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 [link to new research page]. 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 open to the public daily from official sunrise to sunset. Some areas of the refuge are closed between December 1 and March 1; see map link below.
Activities and Amenities
Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge hosts more than 150,000 users every year. You must have a WMA Access permit to enter the refuge.
Trapping: No hunting is allowed on the refuge, but some regulated trapping is allowed for furbearers and alligators. The furbearer harvest is targeted at nutria and muskrat, which could potentially damage the marsh if their populations are not controlled. Alligators are harvested annually in areas of the refuge with high public use to reduce human conflict with alligators.
Fishing and boating: Abundant fish and shellfish populations provide recreational opportunities for fishermen seeking shrimp, crab, red drum, spotted seatrout, black drum, and largemouth bass, among others. Freshwater fishing areas, mostly located around and connected to the Superior Canal system, are enhanced each year with stockings of Florida strain largemouth bass from LDWF’s Booker Fowler Fish Hatchery. No commercial take of any species (freshwater or saltwater) is allowed on the refuge; this includes a ban on the use of crab traps, nets, and trawls.
There are two public boat launches:
- The East End launch is approximately 3.25 miles east of headquarters on the south side of Hwy 82 (east side of north-south canal). The launch provides access to interior portions of the refuge that are freshwater for most of the year (access to largemouth bass, catfish, gar, etc.); popular water control structures accessed from this launch include Big and Little Constance. This launch is a double launch; both launches are 11 feet wide and 40 feet long from the beginning of the concrete to the end of the concrete. The launch is closed from December 1 through March 1 to limit disturbance to wintering waterfowl on the refuge.
- 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 launch provides access to tidal portions of the refuge that are salt-brackish water most of the year (access to crab, shrimp, red drum, spotted seatrout, etc.); popular water control structures accessed from this launch include Mud Hole, LSU, and Units 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. The launch is a double launch—one is 17 feet, 7 inches wide and the other is 17 feet, 3 inches wide; both are 40 feet long from the beginning of the concrete to the end of the concrete. The 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 as many as 160,000 waterfowl winter on the refuge. Numerous shore and wading birds either migrate through or winter along the shoreline and in the marshes of the refuge. During the spring and fall, neotropical migrant passerine birds also use the shrubs and trees on levees and chenier ridge habitat as a rest stop on their trans-Gulf journeys to and from Central and South America. Although Canada geese no longer migrate to the refuge from breeding areas in the north, refuge staff established a resident flock of giant Canada geese on the refuge in the early 1960s. Descendants of this reintroduction program are still found in the southwestern Louisiana marshes. More than 250 species of birds have been found on the refuge; the best birding areas on the refuge are:
Price Lake Road
Price Lake Road, 0.8 miles west of the refuge headquarters on LA Highway 82 is not only an excellent place to crab or fish but also a hotspot for birding. Price Lake Road is a 3-mile long shell/limestone road where visitors can have spectacular views of wading birds, waterfowl, shorebirds, and other avian species from the road or the newly-constructed observation tower. This area is open to the public from March 1 through December 1 between official sunrise and sunset.
Evariste Nunez Woods and Bird Sanctuary
Evariste Nunez Woods and Bird Sanctuary is a private property located 1.1 miles west of refuge headquarters on LA Highway 82 (0.25 miles west of Price Lake Road). The property is a quality example of intact chenier habitat with live oaks, hackberries, palmettos, and deciduous hollies and is a hotspot for neotropical migrants during spring migration. Birders can find a variety of passerine, near passerine, and raptor species while scanning the trees along the cleared historic airstrip. The property has two birding trails that run east to west through must of the chenier habitat. Depending on recent weather, these trails may be flooded or muddy; plan your footwear accordingly. Biting mosquitoes, horse flies, and deer flies can be numerous depending on the time of year you visit. To access Nunez Woods, visitors must stop at refuge headquarters to pick up a key for the entry gate. Headquarters is open Monday through Friday, 7 am through 5:30 pm (except for on state holidays). The property is closed to the public during deer hunting season (September 1 through February 1).
Levee roads across the refuge provide excellent viewing of wildlife including alligators, mink, muskrat, otter, raccoon, and the occasional deer or bobcat.
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.
Prohibited Activities: overnight camping, horseback riding, ATV riding, geocaching, commercial guiding/tours, swimming, and canoeing/kayaking.
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).
You can access popular public areas directly from Hwy 82. Public vehicle access on Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is limited to 6 miles of interior roads, primarily Price Lake Road and Joseph Harbor Recreation Area.
- Price Lake Road is 0.8 miles west of the refuge headquarters on the south side of Hwy 82. This gravel road is about 3.3 miles long. It passes by both deep water canals and shallow water marsh lakes. There is a single water control structure (Price Lake 6 pipe) along the road, with three handicap-accessible fishing piers. There is also an observation tower for viewing the surrounding marsh and wildlife. Port-o-let toilets and trash dumpsters are available here. Parking is limited (10 pull-offs and two larger parking areas); please be courteous of others and pull to the side of the road while fishing. Recreational opportunities accessible from Price Lake Road include fishing, crabbing, shrimping (seasonal), birding, and wildlife watching. Please note that Price Lake Road closes from December 1 to March 1 every year.
- Joseph Harbor Recreation Area is about 3.1 miles east of refuge headquarters on the south side of Hwy 82. The area includes 0.6 miles of gravel road access primarily near deep water canals (both saltwater and freshwater). The East End Locks, a major water control structure, is located on the east side of Joseph Harbor Canal, which has 1,125 ft. of improved bulkheading. There are two boat launches (East End Locks Launch and Joseph Harbor Launch). Port-o-let toilets, trash dumpsters, and large parking areas are available in this area. Recreational opportunities accessible from Joseph Harbor Recreation Area include boating, fishing, crabbing, and shrimping (seasonal).
- 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.