The third quarter edition of the 1979 Louisiana Conservationist magazine used a six-page spread to colorfully describe the unique Coulee (kool-ee) Wildlife Refuge.
“The early morning stillness is broken only by the quiet chuckle of a wood duck hen calling her brood. Whispering wings and raucous squeal prelude the gentle splash of a drake cannonballing towards the pond to feed,” the article states. “Every waterfowl hunter in northeast Louisiana knows Coulee Wildlife Refuge. That’s because Coulee produces more wood ducks than any other tract of land in North Louisiana.”
The Coulee doesn’t exist now as it did way back in 1954, but during the years it was available on a free lease from the Barham family, it became part of their outdoor legacy in North Louisiana.
During it’s heyday, the refuge provided the most extensive research ever conducted on wood ducks. LSU Professor Dr. Leslie Glasgow and his teams built hundreds of wood duck boxes and installed them on the refuge. Birds were banded, eggs counted and extensive data compiled that helped forge the future of wood duck management in the flyway. Dr. Glasgow later become director of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission and assistant secretary of the Interior under President Richard Nixon.
“My dad was the man behind setting aside several thousand acres for the Coulee back in the 1950s. Most of it was family property,” Barham said. “He got a lot of other people involved to make it happen.”
The area was also a key site in stocking whitetail deer in Morehouse Parish.
“I was there in the early 1950s when the wildlife folks brought 50 deer they had trapped out of Tensas and Madison, and they released them on the Coulee,” he said. “Back in those days, if somebody even saw a deer track it was something. People would talk about it for weeks. After that, it wasn’t but a few years until deer sightings and kills were common.”
Barham said in recent years his family has divided up the property, but much of the natural habitat is still there —although it’s private now. It still serves as a wintering ground for migratory waterfowl, a resident population of wood ducks and all kinds of wildlife, including whitetail deer. And it’s a constant reminder of a family that has been involved in protecting and serving the wildlife and waterfowl of Louisiana for more than a decade.