New manager hopes to revitalize public interest for St. Catherine Creek, Bayou Cocodrie refuges

Published 5:41 pm Friday, June 18, 2021

By Hunter Cloud

The Natchez Democrat

St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge Manager Skye Kreisler said she hopes to turn over a new leaf at the refuge by revitalizing the public interest in the park. Located in Sibley, St. Catherine Creek is a 10-minute drive south of Roux 61 on US 61.

The refuge offers more than just hunting and fishing for people to take part in. It has trails, a butterfly garden and a wide variety of wildlife. Bird watching, hiking and solitude in the outdoors are other ways people can enjoy the refuge, she said.

“I really would like to invite people here the rest of the year besides the hunting season,” Kreisler said. “We are open to hunting and fishing, but there is so much here to see. The refuge complex includes not only St. Catherine Creek but Bayou Cocodrie across the river.”

As the refuge manager, Kreisler oversees St. Catherine Creek and Bayou Cocodrie National Wildlife Refuge. It is located on a gravel road off of Louisiana 15.

Bayou Cocodrie offers a great opportunity for the public to kayak, she said. St. Catherine Creek is battling the effects of the Mississippi River silting over the soil causing the water to be shallow. 

“Bayou Cocodrie is really neat because people can kayak and canoe on. It is a really neat trail. Part of it passes through the refuge. If you want a place to kayak why not there,” Kreisler asked. “There should be opportunities here, and there have been in the past. A lot of the area here has silted over which makes the water really shallow. You can take a kayak out and you can go for a while. Then you hit a bank of silt and you have to get out and trudge around that spot.”

After spending time in Colorado at one point in her career, Kreisler said she envisioned mud shoes for people to walk around like snowshoes.

She said a challenge the staff faces is the Mississippi River flooding of the refuge land. In an article published in a May 2021 issue of The Natchez Democrat, refuge biologist Kent Ozment said most of the refuge’s 25,000 acres are underwater. Kreisler said they would work hard to keep public access as open as possible.

“There is only so much we can do. The river has a mind of its own,” Kreisler said. “This weekend it is supposed to be a big storm and the water levels are unpredictable when there is a storm. One of the first things we do in the morning is to check the Natchez river gauge to see where the water is so we can update our Facebook page.”

The forecast for the Mississippi River calls for it to drop a lot by Mid-July, which should help the visitor experience at the refuge, she said.

Building a friend of the refuge group is how she hopes to get the community involved with the refuge. Her hope is for people to come out to the refuge more.

“Our hope is to be a known entity in Natchez, so whenever there is a festival here, we are one of the highlights,” Kreisler said. “This is such a beautiful place, and we can really connect people with the outdoors.”