A southwestern Louisiana refuge, home of huge flocks of waterfowl, whistling-ducks, and herons.
By John Phillips, Jr. | Published: 12/22/2014
The most accessible portion of Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge is the 16,000-acre impoundment known locally as “the Pool.” It’s a wonderful place to find ducks, geese, hawks, egrets, herons, and alligators, and best of all, it’s quiet and relaxing. The wildlife drive takes visitors about six miles through the protected marsh. Lacassine is a remote refuge. On most days, you may see only a few people traveling the raised levee roads.
A few hundred thousand ducks winter on the refuge. Lacassine hosted more than 100,000 Northern Pintails in winter in the 1980s, but the numbers today are only about 18,000, reflecting a downward trend for the species across North America. In addition to pintails, expect to see teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Mottled Duck, Canvasback, and Redhead, among others.
Peak season starts in December and extends well into February. It’s thrilling to see and hear large flocks of geese rising up and descending in the fields and to find thousands of ducks spread out over the Pool. On the east side, a raised platform overlooks the miles of marsh; a stationary scope is located here. The tranquility, many species of birds, and lack of human occupation bring me back to the refuge every winter. — John Phillips, Jr.
John Phillips, Jr. is a wildlife photographer. He wrote about Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary, High Island, Texas, Hotspot Near You No. 153, in February 2013.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Grasslands, marsh, lakes, cypress trees, brush, rice fields.
Flat. Rock roadways serve as levees around pool.
Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue, Little Blue, Green, and Tricolored Herons, Roseate Spoonbill, White, Glossy, and White-faced Ibis, Black- and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Pied-billed Grebe, Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, American Coot, Greater White-fronted, Canada, Cackling, Snow, and Ross’s Geese, Blue- and Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Mottled Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Canvasback, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Harrier, Crested Caracara, White-tailed Kite, Red-shouldered Hawk, Bald Eagle, Merlin, Belted Kingfisher, Loggerhead Shrike, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Meadowlark. Rare: Reddish Egret, Cinnamon Teal.
When to go
Year-round. Best from December to February.
Ramped observation deck, trails. Information booth and portable toilet at beginning of drive. Checklist for southwestern Louisiana refuges (PDF).
National wildlife refuge. No fees. Open from sunrise to dusk. Stay on refuge roads; side roads belong to a private company.
If you hike off the Pool roads, use bug spray; mosquitoes aren’t a problem on roads. Visit after 3 p.m., when birds start feeding and the sun is setting.
For more info
Cameron Prairie NWR
35 miles west of Lacassine. About 10,000 acres of marshes and coastal prairies. Abundant waterfowl. Great for butterflies and dragonflies.
A vast 125,000-acre refuge southwest of Lake Charles. More than 300 species. King Rail, Roseate Spoonbill, Merlin.