National Wildlife Refuge
|1 Wildlife Drive
Sanibel, FL 33957
Phone Number: 239-472-1100
|Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Island Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Island Bay NWR, administered as a satellite of the J.N. "Ding" Darling NWR, is located in the Cape Haze area of Charlotte Harbor, Charlotte County, Florida--southwest of Punta Gorda. The Refuge was established as a ". . . preserve and breeding ground for native birds" on October 23, 1908, through Executive Order 958 signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. Later, on October 23, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed Public Law 91-504 establishing the refuge as a Wilderness Area.
Getting There . . .
Access to the waters surrounding the islands that make up the Island Bay NWR 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.
Located in a vast complex of mangrove islands and brackish waters, Island Bay Refuge consists of six undeveloped, roadless tracts of land totaling 20 acres occupying the higher portions of several islands and their mangrove shorelines. The refuge islands include Gallagher Key, Bull Key, and two unnamed keys located between Bull and Turtle Bays. Two other tracts, the Cash and John Quiet Mounds, are located on the edge of Turtle Bay reaching heights of 10-20 feet above sea level. The refuge is protected from the gulf by barrier islands and is directly influenced by the tides and the inland rivers. Thus, the surrounding waters are very brackish. The bay bottom supports an abundance of vegetation such as shoal grass, widgeon grass, and various marine algae. The wetlands portion of the islands is dominated by red and black mangroves. Cabbage palms dominate the higher sand ridges with tropical trees such as gumbo limbos, sea grapes and strangler fig mixed in.
These sites are dominated by large mounds built by Calusa Indians who inhabited the coastal area of South Florida hundreds of years ago. The Calusa Indians principle source of food, shellfish, was derived from the sea and these mounds of their discarded shells mark the areas that were inhabited by the Calusas. Today, beaches and shores of the refuge provide loafing and feeding sites for shorebirds, gulls, and terns. The surrounding shallow bays provide valuable feeding areas for the wading and water birds. Other vertebrates known to use the refuge or surrounding waters include raccoons, marsh rabbits, manatees, and sea turtles.Learn More>>
The refuge is closed to the public.
Island Bay NWR is managed as a natural area. Periodic biological and wildlife population surveys are conducted by staff to assess wildlife communities utilizing the area. Law enforcement patrols are routinely conducted for the protection of wildlife species and Calusa Indian artifact sites located on the island. Occasionally, the refuge staff chemically treats Brazilian Pepper, an invasive exotic plant that threatens the overall plant community.