Size, Location and History
Big Lake Wildlife Management Area consists of 19,231 acres located 12 miles east of Gilbert, La. The eastern boundary of Big Lake WMA is contiguous with a portion of the western boundary of Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, together these areas form one of the largest remaining tracts of the vast bottomland hardwood forests that historically composed the lower Mississippi River floodplain from lower Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico. Major access routes to Big Lake WMA are Louisiana Highways 4 and 610. The area was purchased by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries through the Rockefeller Fund in three components between 1983 and 1985; 9,833 acres 1983, 4,888 acres 1984, and 4,510 acres 1985.
Description of Landscape:
The topography is flat with some ridges and generally poorly drained, terrain varies from 55-65 feet M.S.L. Seasonal flooding occurs dependent on water levels within the Tensas River, but periodic flooding may occur anytime after periods of heavy rainfall. Abandoned and active mineral exploration and production sites, roadways, pipelines, and open-water lakes, sloughs, and bayous provide diversity throughout the area. Seven small lakes and six small bayous, approximately 200 acres and 25 miles of waterways, respectively, can be found on the area.
Most of the forested component of the area consists of relatively closed overstory canopy with a fairly dense understory. Major timber species are Nuttall oak, water oak, willow oak, overcup oak, American elm, sweetgum, bitter pecan, honey locust, sugarberry, willow, sycamore, persimmon, cedar elm, red maple, box elder, and cypress. Understory species include rattan, Rubus sp., Crataegus sp., swamp dogwood, Vitis sp., deciduous holly, elderberry, Smilax sp., baccharis, switchcane, poison ivy, and many herbaceous species. Invasive species include trifoliate orange, water hyacinth, and several other nuisance aquatics.
The most popular game species are white-tailed deer, squirrels/rabbits, and turkey. Limited waterfowl and woodcock hunting opportunities are also available. Freshwater fish including largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, and catfish are popular with area users.
Big Lake WMA along with Tensas National Wildlife Refuge is home to a thriving population of Louisiana Black Bear. Reported sightings, nuisance complaints of adjacent landowners, and vehicle collisions are steadily increasing and Black Bear research on this entire area is ongoing.
Big Lake WMA is visited by many neo-tropical bird species annually and home to large numbers of passerine birds. This area is recognized by the American Bird Conservancy as an important site. Bald eagles and osprey are observed regularly.
The largest user group of this area is deer hunters. The Department maintains a system of all-weather gravel roads and numerous ATV trails that provide access to area users. Several walking trails follow pipelines rights-of-way. Boat launches are available on most area lakes. Four permit stations located at major entrances to the area are provided to meet self-clearance requirements. No public camping areas are available on Big Lake WMA, campsites are available to the public for a fee on adjacent private property. The one mile Trusler Lake Hiking Trail is located in the interior of the area.
Other Public Use:
Please refer to the WMA rules and regulations for permitted activities. In addition to hunting, trapping, and fishing other common activities include boating, commercial fishing, hiking, birdwatching/sightseeing, horseback riding, berry picking, frogging, raccoon field trials, and crayfishing. A recreational lottery for alligators is allowed each year also.
Additional information may be obtained from LDWF, 368 CenturyLink Drive, Monroe, LA 71203. Phone (318) 343-4044.
BIG LAKE (Department Owned - 19,231 Acres, Monroe Office)