Peveto Woods Sanctuary
The Baton Rouge Audubon Society Peveto Woods Sanctuary currently encompasses approximately 40 acres and is located along the Louisiana coast in Cameron Parish. This site was the first chenier sanctuary for migratory birds established in Louisiana. Coastal woods were called cheniers by early French settlers. The word means oak place, so-called because live oak was the predominant tree. Cheniers are ancient beach ridges, formed by wave action, offshore currents, and the influence of the Mississippi River. They are a unique feature of the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, found primarily along the Louisiana coast.
Baton Rouge Audubon Society is proud to have preserved this unique habitat. Birders and other nature lovers have visited the Sanctuary from 50 states and 20 foreign countries. Although the Sanctuary is owned and operated by the Society, we are dependent on private donations for maintenance costs and land purchases. Because of the generosity of private individuals and groups, BRAS has been able to maintain and add to this important site.
To get there from Interstate 10 drive south on Hwy 27 at Sulphur, LA until it intersects Hwy. 82 at Holly beach (33 mi.); go west (right) for 8.5 miles on Hwy 82; look for the BRAS Sanctuary sign on the left, turn left and follow the road to the sanctuary on the left.
History of the Area
Peveto beach woods, once a tract of about 50 acres, became popular among ornithology students and birders, especially during the spring and fall migratory periods, when large numbers of trans-Gulf migrants appear in the woodlands. In the 1970's and early 1980's, the tract began to shrink as various owners began selling off sections of the property. In 1978, the owners partitioned the property and half of it was sold to developers for a residential subdivision. In 1984, a small group of concerned birders decided to try to save what was left.
In August 1984, through the generosity of Mr. Robert W. Holleyman of Lake Charles and Dr. Carlton Sheely, III, of Baton Rouge, the first tract of six acres was purchased. Several small parcels were added in the following two years. In July 1989, the Henshaw Sanctuary was created with the sale and donation of the unsold portions of the subdivision by Mr. H. Marsh Henshaw, III, of Sulphur. Subsequent additions of several undeveloped lots came in August 1990 and February 1992. In 1993, 27 acres were added on the north side reaching up to La. Hwy. 82. In 1994, we filled in one of the sand pits and replanted about six acres with 1,600 live oak seedlings. Restoration projects of various kinds have been ongoing ever since.
Significance of the Sanctuary
Louisiana lies in the center of the flight path of migratory birds crossing the Gulf of Mexico. An enormous number of migratory songbirds pass over the Cameron Parish coast each spring and fall. In their studies of bird migration, ornithologists George Lowery and Robert Newman found that in the spring when the wind is from the south and the weather is clear, most migrants pass over the coastal areas to land miles inland. However, when the wind is from the north, the birds tire and barely make it to the first land they sight. This makes the Louisiana coastal woodlands critical to the survival of tiny songbirds in need of rest, food and cover. As many as two million birds use our sanctuary each year.
Since 1984, scientists from the University of Southern Mississippi have used the sanctuary as a site for research on migrant songbirds. Their findings further document the importance of this habitat to songbirds. When birds reach the Louisiana coast, their energy reserves are exhausted. Without coastal woodlands for a resting and feeding area and for protection from predators and weather, some portion of millions of songbirds which nest in the United States and Canada probably would not survive. Recent evidence indicates that the sanctuary is used by the migratory Monarch butterfly, as well as many other butterflies.
The Baton Rouge Audubon Society's Peveto Woods Sanctuary provides:
- Protection of the Chenier Plain habitat at Peveto Woods for birds, butterflies and other wildlife with special emphasis on Neotropical migrants;
- Visitors with the opportunity for nature study such as birding, butterfly watching and photography; and
- A means to promote wildlife education, research, and conservation in cooperation with others including the residents and organizations of Cameron Parish