About the Refuge

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Public access to Shell Keys National Wildlife Refuge is restricted due to its remoteness and sole accessibility by boat.

Shell Keys was established by Executive Order on July 9, 1855 as a lighthouse reservation and subsequently as Shell Keys Reservation, and a breeding ground for native birds as established by Executive Order 682 on August 17, 1907. Shell Keys National Wildlife Refuge is one of the oldest refuges in the Refuge System. Its boundary was and still is rather loosely described as "...a small group of unsurveyed islets located in the Gulf of Mexico about three and one-half miles south of Marsh Island, Louisiana..."

For a number of years, there has only been one islet at the location. This islet is composed almost entirely of shell fragments. It is extremely dynamic and builds or recedes with passing storms. Vegetation is almost entirely lacking.