Formed in 1994, Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of 18,000 acres of pine flatwoods, oak ridges, fresh, brackish and saltwater marsh. This diverse habitat is a wonderful example of the natural coastline of Lake Pontchartrain, surrounded by fast-developing communities. Allowed uses of the refuge in addition to canoeing, include environmental education, birding, fishing, hunting, biking, hiking and photography. A major public-use area is the Boy Scout Road boardwalk and trail. The refuge has unique habitat zones that contain diverse combinations of plant communities. These zones begin with the sandy beach fringing Lake Pontchartrain. Moving inland, the next zone is the brackish marsh. The third zone has a water level that is slightly below the marsh floor where the predominant plants are wiregrass and spike rush. The farthest inland plant zone is the upland zone and it consists of pine flatwoods and bottomland hardwood hammocks. Endangered species you may see here include the red-cockaded woodpecker, brown pelican, American alligator and bald eagle, along with rabbit, turkey, various neo-tropical birds, deer, squirrel, migratory waterfowl, ospreys and other raptors, and wading birds. The refuge headquarters is co-located with the Southeast Louisiana Refuges' headquarters on a beautiful property in Lacombe. The offices are on Highway 434 two miles south of I-12 (Exit 74) and just north of the intersection of 434 and Highway 190. Look for the Big Branch Marsh Refuge sign. The headquarters property is known as Bayou Lacombe Centre. For more information see http://www.fws.gov/bigbranchmarsh/ or call 985-882-2000.