Island Bay Wilderness

Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida.

The Island Bay Wilderness now contains a total of 20 acres and is managed by the Fish & Wildlife Service's J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. All of the Wilderness is in the state of Florida. In 1970 the Island Bay Wilderness became part of the now over 110 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System.

The tangled masses of roots stemming from mangrove trees often intertwine to form islands, a haven for pelicans, herons, and egrets. The four small mangrove islands and two small mangrove points were given protected status by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 when they became what is now known as Island Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The Island Bay Wilderness was established in 1970 as one of the smallest units (totaling a mere 20 acres) in the National Wilderness Preservation System. J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge now manages the refuge.

No access is provided to these islands, but several shell mounds pay tribute to the Native Americans who once called them home. Illegal digging for artifacts has caused great harm to this critical bird habitat, a fragile ecology best viewed from a boat anchored at a respectful distance of at least 200 feet.

Nearby Activities


Access to the waters surrounding the islands that make up the Island Bay Wilderness is by boat only. The islands are not accessible to visitors. Boaters should consult navigational charts and tide schedules before attempting to visit any waters surrounding the refuge. Numerous oyster bars and shallow back bay/estuary waters are difficult to navigate and fragile seagrass beds must not be damaged. By boat, the refuge is located on the north side of Charlotte Harbor in Turtle Bay. The nearest population centers are Port Charlotte, lying approximately 15 miles to the east, and Fort Myers, roughly 23 miles southeast. For more information, contact the J.N. "Ding" Darling NWR, 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel, Florida 33957 or call (239) 472-1100.

Additional Information

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