About the Refuge


Island Bay National Wildlife Refuge, administered as a satellite refuge of the J.N. "Ding" Darling NWR Complex, is located in the Southwest Florida Cape Haze area of Charlotte Harbor. Check out the Island Bay NWR Fact Sheet for more information.

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. Upon the recommendation of T. Gilbert Pearson of the National Audubon Society, Island Bay NWR was protected by Audubon warden Columbus McLeod before he was presumed murdered, in the line of duty, later that same year. On October 23, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed Public Law 91-504 establishing the refuge as a Wilderness Area.

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 surrounded by the Cape Haze State Aquatic Preserve and the Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park. 

These sites are dominated by large mounds built by Calusa Indians who inhabited the coastal area of South Florida hundreds of years ago. 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.