Location: Monroe, Louisiana
Webpage: National Wildlife Refuge
General Description: Established in 1997 through a unique relationship with the city of Monroe, Louisiana, Black Bayou Lake NWR has a 99 year lease to manage the city owned lake as an urban refuge for wildlife. Black Bayou Lake is a cypress and tupelo studded trees surrounded by swamps and wetland areas. Upland area are dominated by southern pine and hardwood mixture. Wildlife species include alligators, wood ducks, tree frogs, water snakes, deer, water wading birds, and other neo-tropical migrant birds in the fall and spring. The lake covers 5300 acres, located within the city limits of Monroe.
1) The Black Bayou Lake NWR is a unique experience as it is located within the city limits of Monroe, yet is wild habitat for native wildlife and vegetation. The Visitor Center is a restored 1890s planters house that was moved to the 40 acre upland site next to the lake. There are a few exhibits in the house and a small gift shop. Within you can get all the information you need to plan your visit.
2) In addition to renting canoes or kayaks to explore the lake by water, there are also a number of well maintained trails next to the Visitor Center. The Nature Trail is the main 1 mile trail that leads visitors through the upland as it transitions into the cypress swamp bordering the lake. The trail also provides access to the Wildlife Pier which is a boardwalk that extends out into the lake. Unfortunately, they are working on repairing flood damage at both ends of the boardwalk over the lake, but you can still access the observation decks at both corners.
3) Other trails include the Prairie Trail which is a 1/3 mile trail through a small restored prairie at the Visitor Center, the Edgewater Trail that is a 7 mile trail around the edges of the lake and bayou, and the Arboretum Trail that winds through an area where they have planted native species to provide identification in a relatively small area.