Red River National Wildlife Refuge is made up of four units in the Red River Valley in northwestern Louisiana. Headquarters Unit in Bossier and Caddo Parishes, Bayou Pierre Unit in Desoto and Red River Parishes, Lower Cane Unit in Natchitoches Parish and Spanish Lake Lowlands in Natchitoches Parish. The first property was acquired on August 22, 2002. The Visitor Center, Headquarters Offices and Education Center opened in January 2012. The refuge is important to waterfowl, wading birds and songbirds especially.
The Red River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was created legislatively by the Red River National Wildlife Refuge Act - signed into law on October 13, 2000. The first land purchase was made in August 2002 consisting of 1,377 acres. According to legislation, the refuge shall consist of approximately 50,000 acres of Federal lands and waters along that section of the Red River between Colfax, Louisiana and the Arkansas state line, a distance of approximately 120 miles. Therefore, Red River NWR is comprised of a headquarters unit and four additional focus units.
Red River NWR is located in the Red River Valley which historically was forested with bottomland hardwoods, cypress sloughs and shrub/scrub swamps, providing a variety of habitats for wildlife. In the early 1800's, settlers began clearing land for homesteads and farms after the Louisiana Purchase. The mid-1800's brought more clearing for cotton farming and during the mid-1900's, deforestation accelerated with the increase in soybean prices.
Hunting is permitted in designated areas on some units of the refuge. A signed Refuge Hunting/Fishing Permit must be carried by hunters at all times. Refer to the permit for refuge-specific hunting regulations including which areas of the refuge are open to hunting. No hunting is permitted at the Headquarters Unit in Bossier City.
Fishing is permitted during certain times of the year at the refuge, a signed Refuge Hunting/Fishing Permit must be carried by anglers at all times when fishing on the refuge. Refer to the permit for refuge specific fishing regulations. Lake Caroline is open to non-motorized boats and fishing February-May and August-October.
Enjoy walking over 5 miles of walking trails on the Headquarters Unit in Bossier City as you look for birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, fish, and plants that naturally live on the refuge. Other refuge units have levees and access roads that can be walked, but are not maintained as trails. Dogs are welcome on our trails, but please keep your dogs on a leash and pick up after them.
Wildlife Challenge Trail
Head down the Orchard Trail (Red Trail) at the Headquarters Unit and try your hand at the Wildlife Challenge Trail, a 0.25 mile trail that helps children learn about and imitate adaptations and behaviors of some of the wild animals that live on the refuge! Total round trip walking distance from the visitor is just under 1 mile.
Nature Discovery Play Area
Just a short walk down the Lake Bluff Trail (Green Trail) at the Headquarters Unit is the Nature Discovery Play Area, a small nature-themed playground that includes a tree house, faux fishing boat, balance beams, hollow logs, among other things. A wagon with building blocks, animal costumes, and magnetic fish can be checked out from rangers and volunteers at the visitor center.
Look for Wildlife
Some 246 birds can be found the refuge over the course of a year, check out (borrow) a bird watching backpack from a ranger or volunteer at the visitor center and hit the trails to see what wildlife you can spot! In addition to birds don't forget to be on the lookout for mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and insects.
Whether you have a big lens or if you just have your phone, spend enough time out on the refuge and you just might catch that perfect camera shot of a butterfly drinking nectar from a flower or a deer cautiously grazing.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Lake Caroline is open for canoeing, kayaking, and other non-motorized boating when Lake Caroline is open February-May and August-October. While electric trolling motors are allowed, gas-powered motors are prohibited. Lake Caroline is closed June-July when we band wood ducks and November-January when waterfowl to provide sanctuary for migratory waterfowl.
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