“teeming with wildlife”
Jay Norwood Darling was instrumental in the effort to block the sale of a parcel of environmentally valuable land to developers on Sanibel Island. At Darling's urging, President Harry S. Truman signed an Executive Order creating the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge in 1945. The refuge was renamed in 1967 in honor of the pioneer conservationist. The refuge consists of over 6,400 acres of mangrove forest, submerged seagrass beds, cordgrass marshes, and West Indian hardwood hammocks. Approximately 2,800 acres of the refuge are designated by Congress as a Federal Wilderness Area. The refuge was created to safeguard and enhance the pristine wildlife habitat of Sanibel Island, to protect endangered and threatened species, and to provide feeding, nesting, and roosting areas for migratory birds. Today, the refuge provides important habitat to over 245 species of birds. J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is teeming with wildlife. The refuge contains some of the most nutritionally rich habitat for thousands of species of plants and animals in an intricate food web. The Visitor & Education Center features interactive exhibits on refuge ecosystems, the work of Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling, migratory flyways, the National Wildlife Refuge System, and a hands-on area for children. The Center is open daily except for most federal holidays. The Center hours are January to April from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and May to December from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Center is located on Sanibel-Captiva Road two miles west of Tarpon Bay Road. The Nature Gift Store is located in the Education Center and is operated by the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society- Friends of the Refuge. Visitors can find numerous field guides, nature books, children's books, shirts, postcards, and many other items. Revenues from the Nature Gift Store help fund many programs at the Refuge. Indigo Trail and the Wildlife Education Boardwalk, Shellmound Trail, and Wulfert Keys Trail can all be accessed through Wildlife Drive. For a short hike, we suggest the Indigo Trail. The entrance to Indigo Trail is located at the bottom of the ramp of the Visitor & Education Center. The Wildlife Education Boardwalk, a boardwalk over water with a two-story observation pavilion, has educational scat panels and tracks throughout the boardwalk. Common sightings on any of the three trails are a large variety of wading and shorebirds especially during the winter months, as well as raccoons, marsh rabbits, alligators and occasionally otters and bobcats. Fees apply to Indigo Trail. Open every day but CLOSED FRIDAYS, come drive, hike, or bike through the 4-mile Wildlife Drive. There are three trails that can be accessed from Wildlife Drive: Indigo Trail and the Wildlife Education Boardwalk (4 miles round trip), Shellmound Trail, and Wulfert Keys Trail. Common sightings include a large variety of waterbirds and shorebirds especially during the winter months, as well as raccoons, alligators, marsh rabbits and occasionally otters and bobcats. Fees apply to Wildlife Drive and the Indigo Trail.
Great place to bike or walk, lots of opportunities to bird watch especially during low tide. The visitor center is very informative. Bring your National Park pass and get in for free or pay $5.00 to tour through in car.
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J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
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Good for bird watching.
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