Fall has finally arrived on the Northshore, and everyone is looking forward to cooler weather along with extraordinary outdoor events. Not to be missed is the annual Wild Things event hosted at the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge’s headquarters, 61389 Highway 434 in Lacombe. This free, fan-favorite event is back, bigger than ever, on October 14th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Man teaches little girl to fish at Wild Things at the Southeast Louisiana Wildlife Refuges Headquarters in Lacombe


The bodacious bash is a big hit with young and old. There are loads of activities for the kids including nature related crafts – think fun things to make and take home; build your very own bluebird house or create some nature-oriented artwork; learn to shoot a bow and arrow at the archery exhibit; try out a BB gun; learn to cast a fishing pole at the pond; or take a canoe or pontoon boat ride on the bayou. There is so much to do, learn and experience, with experts there to assist and guide you.


Pontoon rides on the bayou at Wild Things at Big Branch Marsh NWR

If you are a parent or grandparent, don’t think you will be bored, as if watching your kids and grandkids is not entertainment enough. Take a stroll through the interactive Visitor Center and learn more about our nine local wildlife refuges; hop on the hayride and pretend you are 6 years old once again; enjoy a canoe trip on the beautiful bayou; or grab a dance partner and rock out to some groovin’ music, provided by the Dead End Blues band. I promise you will enjoy every moment and you’ll be putting Wild Things on your calendar for years to come.


You’ll be able to see and learn about native raptors, reptiles, and amphibians; visit with a master naturalist or master gardener; discover how to forage and prepare wild edibles with Slowhike Company; hear about the amazing world of bees from Handy Andy Apiary, and learn how to fish, shoot, paddle and more.

Learning about gators at Wild Things at Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in LacombeThe official gator wrangler for the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office, Howard McCrae, shows off a juvenile gator. 


Another big part of the Wild Things celebration is the recognition and accolades showered on the winners of the annual, state-wide Wild Things Youth Art Contest. I’ve been attending Wild Things since its inception, and I have to say we have some extremely talented artists in our state in every age group.


Statewide Youth Art Contest at Wild Things at Big Branch Marsh NWR

Statewide Youth Art Contest at Wild Things, Bayou Lacombe Visitor Center in the Southeast Louisiana Wildlife Refuges Complex in Lacombe.


In addition to all this, the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) and the Public Lands Alliance (PLA) are partnering to encourage people to move in nature by walking a 5K (3.1 miles) at a local wildlife refuge during National Wildlife Refuge Week, held the second week of October. By signing up and donating for the Walk for the Wild 5K Challenge, you can help generate funding to advance these critical missions to conserve the environment for wildlife and us. There will be 5K walks mapped and available at Bayou Sauvage Urban, Big Branch Marsh and Bayou Tech National Wildlife Refuges. To sign up, visit https://support.americaswildliferefuges.org/team/516014.


Learning to build a bird house at Wild Things at Big Branch Marsh NWR

Kids learn how to build a bluebird house at Wild Things.


If you have a keen interest in Louisiana wildlife, the outdoors, nature and conservation, I have the perfect opportunity for you. Join the Friends of Southeast Louisiana (SE LA) Wildlife Refuge group, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. This is the best option to enjoy nature, help protect and preserve our natural resources, all while supporting a very worthy cause. Annual membership dues are nominal at $20 for individuals or $25 for families. We have volunteer opportunities for everyone, regardless of your age, health or qualifications. You can volunteer in the Visitor’s Center. You can serve on a committee. You can lead a canoe tour or help with Service Saturday where we perform grounds/trail work or prepare goodie bags for an upcoming event. We have numerous ways for everyone to serve. The important part is to step up and join. For more information email lwrfriends@gmail.com or visit www.flwr.org. Our next general membership meeting is November 4th. Time, location, and activities to be announced.


Learning nature related crafts at Wild Things at the Southeast Louisiana Wildlife Refuges Complex in Lacombe.

Learning nature related crafts at Wild Things.


Up Next: Cajun Christmas at Big Branch

Don’t forget to bring the kids to visit with Santa Claus on December 9th from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. at the SE LA National Wildlife Refuge’s Bayou Lacombe Visitor Center. Santa will be in the “Bill Jewel” Cajun Cabin to visit with children and adults. Admission, photos, refreshments, wildlife crafts and visits with Santa are all free. A complimentary photographer will be provided, but parents are encouraged to bring their own cameras. Explore the beautiful trails and grounds of the historic Bayou Gardens, with many varieties of camellias in bloom adding to the seasonal mood. Come pass a good time and partake of free hot chocolate and cookies. This event is made possible by The Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges, Inc.  

The Cajun Cabin is lovingly dedicated to Bill Jewel, one of our greatest supporters of the SE LA refuges and wildlife conservation. For years, Bill would don his Santa suit and entertain each child and sit for Christmas photos. Please honor Bill by attending Cajun Christmas.


Pictures with Santa at Cajun Christmas at the Bayou Lacombe Visitor Center

Get photos with Santa in the Bayou Lacombe Visitor Center's Cajun Cabin at the Southeast Louisiana Wildlife Refuges Complex in Lacombe.


Story and photos by Donna Bush, Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges