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J.C. "Sonny" Gilbert Wildlife Management Area

J.C. "Sonny" Gilbert Wildlife Management Area, formerly known as Sicily Island Hills WMA, is a 7500-acre protected area in Catahoula Parish.  The WMA protects a unique area of steep hills and creeks.  Established in 1980, the area has grown to its present size through additional purchases and donations.  The WMA was renamed for J.C. "Sonny" Gilbert, a Louisiana state legislator and conservationist.  Although primarily used for hunting, the WMA contains several hiking trails leading to some of the only waterfalls in the state.

Note that all users, including hikers/sightseers, must be in possession of a license while on the WMA.  If you don't have a hunting or fishing license, a Wild Louisiana Stamp is needed.  It can be purchased from retailers that sell hunting licenses, such as Walmart, or from the LDWF website (http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/licenses-and-permits).  Additionally, all users must complete a self-clearing permit.  Permit stations are located near the entrances to the WMA.  Fill out the permit and deposit the check-in portion upon entering.  Keep the check-out portion in your possession while in the WMA and deposit at the permit station on the way out.

Contact Information:

368 Century Link Drive,
Monroe, LA 71203

Phone: 318-343-4044


The WMA is located about 6 miles west of Sicily Island in Catahoula Parish.  The south entrance, with access to Rock Falls Trail, is 6.9 miles west of Sicily Island on LA-8.  The turn is not marked on most maps or navigation systems, but the GPS of the turn is 31.79640,-91.75260.  Follow the gravel road about a mile to the self-clearing permit station and camping area.  Rock Falls Trailhead is about another mile and a half.

The north entrance of the WMA provides access to the St. Mary's Falls and Big Creek hiking trails.  From Sicily Island, go west on LA-8 for 1.2 miles and turn right on LA-916.  Drive 2.6 miles and turn left on LA-915.  Go just under a mile and turn left and then immediately right to stay on LA-915.  From this last turn, go 0.9 miles and turn left into the WMA at a brown sign.  In a short ways, there is a split, go right.  It's 2 miles to the St. Mary's Falls Trailhead and 2.5 miles to Big Creek Trailhead.



Big Creek Trail:

Length: 7.1 miles
Blaze: Orange
Trailhead GPS: 31.85829,-91.75707

Big Creek Trail is the longest in the area at about 7 miles.  The trailhead is about a half-mile past St. Mary's Falls Trailhead from the northern entrance to the WMA.  The trail starts out following an old road and comes to a split shortly.  Going left, the trail continues on the old road for a short ways before splitting to the left and generally heading downhill.  After passing a swampy area and crossing a couple tributaries, the trail comes out near the upper reaches of Big Creek and begins to follow its namesake downstream.  There are some scenic cascades along here.  The trail follows Big Creek downstream on right left side of the creek for about two miles, never veering too far.  In about 2 miles, it gets really swampy and I had to bushwhack to avoid submerged parts of the trail.  It then turns right and begins to follow a major tributary upstream.  I had to bushwhack here to avoid a very deep crossing of this tributary.  The tributary gets smaller and smaller as the trail follows it upstream, passing some more cascades.  Eventually there's not much tributary left and the trail gets steeper as it loops back around to the start.

Rock Falls Trail:

Length: 0.7 miles
Blaze: Red
Trailhead GPS: 31.82527,-91.75457

Rock Falls Trail starts behind the shelter at the trailhead and descends down to a small ravine on a tributary of Big Creek.  Turning right the trail follows the tributary upstream reaching Rock Falls in a short ways.  The trail then passes over the top of the waterfall and leads through forested slopes eventually looping back around and ending at the road back near the start.  There are several signs along the trail identifying plants along the trail.

St. Mary's Falls Trail:

Length: 1.1 miles
Blaze: Green
Trailhead GPS: 31.86347,-91.75315

St. Mary's Falls Trail starts following an old overgrown road and immediately comes to a split.  Going straight/right the trail departs from the road and heads down to Sandy Bayou.  St. Mary's Falls is immediately across the creek.  To the right, upstream on a tributary is another small waterfall.  From the waterfalls, the trail follows Sandy Bayou downstream, passing some nice cascades and crossing the creek several times.  In a quarter-mile or so, the trail crosses Sandy Bayou and then starts heading back up and eventually reaching the split at the beginning.


Rock Falls:

Rock Falls is a 17-foot waterfall on a tributary of Big Creek, accessed from the southern part of the WMA along the red-blazed Rock Falls Trail.  It is the highest waterfall in Louisiana.  The tributary has a small watershed so best to visit after periods of good rain.  You can see the waterfall from the trail or make the steep climb down into the gorge to reach the base.

St. Mary's Falls:

St. Mary's Falls is a 10-foot waterfall on Sandy Bayou, accessed from the northern part of the WMA.  The water falls in a straight drop over a ledge with a small cave behind it.

Sandy Bayou Waterfall:

There is a 5-foot cascading waterfall on the tributary of Sandy Bayou that flows into near the base of St. Mary's Falls.  You can see both from the trail though they're obscured by trees.  The waterfall is small and low flow, but it drops into a big pool.



The varied topography in the area leads to an abundance of spring wildflowers.  I visited in early March before the flowers were really popping.  I did find some of these ragwort starting to bloom.

Blog Entries:

04-Mar-2018: Sicily Island Hills Waterfalls

External Links:

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website: http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wma/2762