About the Refuge

About the Refuge Main Photo

Lake Caroline at the Red River National Wildlife Refuge.

The Station

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. 
In 1870, Captain Shreve began clearing log jams to make the Red River more navigable and attempts to improve navigation continued with the completion of the lock and dam system in 1994. Completion of the Red River Waterway Project in 1994 led to higher and more consistent water levels in the river which has greatly reduced the turbidity. Water quality has improved and with the seasonal retention of water levels, a rich diversity of aquatic plants has developed.
Increased water levels on the river also improved condiditons for some wildlife. Flooded timber and farm fields with wet, depressional areas are now more common and are being used by wading birds, waterfowl, and other aimals. USDA programs such as the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) are restoring valuable wildlife habitat through the reforestation of marginal farmlands and highly erodible lands in the Red River Valley.
Once the 50,000 acres has been acquired, the refuge will connect with other conservation areas reducing habitat fragmentation and providing wildlife corridors and stop-over areas for migrating waterfowl and songbirds.
Red River NWR is a relatively new refuge, therefore public use areas and opportunities are being added as staff and funding grow. 
For more information on the Red River Waterway Commission please visit: http://www.redriverwaterway.com/