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Established in 1990, the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge’s 23,000 acres of fresh and brackish marshes, all within the city limits of New Orleans, make it the nation's largest urban wildlife refuge. Bayou Sauvage is only 15 minutes from the French Quarter. Most of the refuge is inside massive hurricane protection levees, built to hold back storm surges and maintain water levels in the low-lying city. An enormous wading bird rookery can be found in the swamps of the refuge from May until July, while tens of thousands of waterfowl winter in its bountiful marshes. The marshes along Lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne serve as estuarine nurseries for various fish species, crabs and shrimp. Freshwater lagoons, bayous and ponds serve as production areas for largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish. The diverse habitats meet the needs of 340 bird species during various seasons of the year. Peak waterfowl populations of 75,000 use the wetland areas during the fall, winter and early spring months. Allowed public uses here include bird watching, fishing, hiking, wildlife observation, photography and canoeing. Of course, there is no public hunting on the refuge. From Slidell, take I-10 west; take Irish Bayou exit #254; turn left onto Highway 11, go 6 miles to Highway 90; turn right and go approximately 2 miles. From New Orleans, take I-10 east to exit #246A (Chalmette, I-510); go about 2 miles on I-510 to Highway 90 east exit; turn left and go approximately 4 miles. For more information see or call U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Louisiana Refuges, 985-882-2000.