Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge - Overview
Ten Thousand Islands NWR is located in Collier County on the southwest coast of Florida. Established in 1996, this 35,000 acres refuge protects important mangrove habitats and a rich diversity of native wildlife, including several endangered species.
The refuge is part of the largest expanses of mangrove forest in North America. Approximately two thirds of the refuge is mangrove forest, which dominates most tidal fringes and the numerous islands (or keys). The northern third of the refuge consists of brackish marsh and interspersed ponds, and small coastal hammocks of oak, cabbage palms, and tropical hardwoods such as gumbo limbo.
Roughly 200 species of fish have been documented in the area and much of the sea grass beds and mangrove bottoms serve as vital nursery areas for marine fish. Over 189 species of birds use the refuge at some time during the year. Prominent bird groups include wading birds, shorebirds, diving water birds, and raptors. Common mammals found in the area include raccoon, river otter, and bottle-nosed dolphins.
Notable threatened and endangered species include West Indian manatee, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, wood stork, and the Atlantic loggerhead, green, and Kemp's Ridley sea turles.
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge - FAQ's
Where is the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge?
The refuge is located approximately 20 miles southeast of Naples, Florida, on the south side of Highway 41. The wester boundary lies along county road 92. The Gulf of Mexico borders the southern boundary, and the eastern boundary lies just west of Everglades National Park, and FAKA Union Canal in the northern portion of that boundary.
What can I do on this refuge?
The mangrove ecosystem of TTINWR and the greater area are currently used by the public in a variety of recreational pursuits. These activities include sportfishing, boating, bird watching, camping, and enjoying the aesthetics of the area.
Can I see a manatee in the refuge?
Yes, manatees are year-round occupants of the refuge but to see one is sometimes a challenge. In the winter, adjacent to the refuge at the Port of the Islands resort harbor and HWY 41 bridge at the resort area are great places to see manatees.
What other wildlife can I see on the refuge?
A variety of wetland wildlife are seen on the refuge: alligators, wading birds, shorebirds, bald eagles, osprey, loggerhead sea turtles, and dolphins.
What is the best way to see the refuge?
Since the refuge is largely wetlands, a boat is the best means to get around the refuge. Boating is a must for fantastic sportfishing in the backwaters. Boat ramps are located in Goodland, Florida and Port of the Islands Resort on the Faka Union Canal. Commercial boat operators (tour guides) are available in these areas too.
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge - Activities
Boating and fishing are allowed in the refuge. The fishing in the tidal mangrove estuary is outstanding, with anglers targetting redfish, spotted seatrout, snook and snapper. Boat launching facilities are available in Goodland (off of S.R. 92) and Port-of-the-Islands (off of U.S. 41).
Only duck and coot hunting are allowed on a estimated 4,000 acres of fresh and brackish marsh, accessible from U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) at designated sites. Permits and special regulations apply. Contact the refuge office for more details.
Wildlife Observation and Photography
The variety of wildlife in the refuge attracts birdwatchers and nature lovers. Manatees are frequently viewed in and around the refuge. Wildlife can be viewed from boats or by foot on a one-mile trail located off of U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail). Currently, this is an unimproved trail, with limited roadside parking. Future plans include improving this trail with a parking lot, interpretive signs, observation tower, and paved bike path.
Refuge camping is limited, for the most part, to the coastal beaches during the winter months, when the mosquitoes and sandflies are less annoying. Refuge camping is directly associated with fishing and wildlife observation, and is a traditional use of these areas.
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge - Directions
Ten Thousand Islands NWR is located between Marco Island and Everglades City, Florida. The refuge is best accessed by boat. The two prominent boating access points are found in Goodland and Port-of-the-Islands. Take U.S. 41 south out of Naples and drive 12 miles to Hwy 92, turn right and drive 5 miles to Goodland, or continue on U.S. 41 for 5 miles to Port-of-the-Islands. The headquarters for the refuge is located at 3860 Tollgate Blvd,. Naples, FL, within the Comfort Inn at exit 101 on I-75.
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge - Management Activities
Invasive non-native plants such as Brazilian pepper, melaleuca, Australian pine, old world climbing fern, and latherleaf have degraded portions of the refuge. Mechanical and chemical methods are utilized to control these nuisance species.
A large number of research projects are conducted on the Ten Thousand Islands NWR by a variety of agencies and organizations. Most of the work being done on the refuge is part of larger projects dealing with mangrove and esturary stystems and functions, especially as it relates to restoration activities planned for lands located in the watershed north of the refuge. Reserach and investigations on the refuge are enhanced by the presence of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve which encourages and facilitates research within the state aquatic preserves which overlay the refuge. Refuge staff and volunteers participate in research and monitoring activities involving endangered sea turtles, migratory birds, and endangered manatees.
Law enforcement patrols by refuge staff provide protection for migratory birds and endangered species and educate, monitor, and inform the public about interim uses and refuge resources. A cooperative management agreement with the State of Florida addresses management activities and law enforcement issues. To learn more about the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge please call the number listed above, or visit their website.
All text courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service