About the Refuge

2Marsh Sunrise

Defining the area known as Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge is a maze of mangrove islands and narrow waterways that serve as nursery grounds for countless plants, animals, and fish.

 
The refuge protects 35,000 acres of important mangrove habitats and a rich diversity of native wildlife, including several endangered species. 
 
Notable threatened and endangered species include the Florida manatee, peregrine falcon, wood stork, as well as the green, Atlantic loggerhead, and Kemp's Ridley sea turtles. 

 

The National Wildlife Refuge System

The only system of Federal lands devoted specifically to wildlife, the National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of diverse and strategically located habitats. More than 545 national wildlife refuges and thousands of waterfowl production areas across the United States teem with millions of migratory birds, serve as havens for hundreds of endangered species, and host an enormous variety of other plants and animals. Over 39 million people visit units of the National Wildlife Refuge System each year to enjoy a wide range of wildlife related recreational opportunities.

 


Establishment 

Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1996 under provisions of the Arizona-Florida Land Exchange Act of 1988. The Department of the Interior conveyed 68 acres of Indian School property in Phoenix, Arizona to Collier family interests in exchange for 108,000 acres in Collier County, Florida. In addition, the Department received $34.9 million to establish Indian education trust funds. Approximately 35,000 acres were conveyed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish the refuge. The remaining acreage was added largely to Big Cypress National Preserve and Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.



Goals

  • Conserve, enhance, and protect the fish and wildlife resources, especially threatened and endangered species, and the other natural values supported within the refuge portion of this unique South Florida coastal ecosystem. 
  • Provide visitors with quality recreational opportunities, guided by the refuge’s vision and mission, and compatible with its purpose. 
  • Promote the interpretation, education, and appreciation of coastal natural resources of the Ten Thousand Islands area, and the importance of conserving them. 
  • Promote cooperation among agencies, private landowners, organizations, and other stakeholders in the management of natural and cultural resources within the Big Cypress Watershed. 
  • Promote refuge cultural resources, encourage archaeological investigations, and promote interpretation and appreciation of the area’s history. 



Natural History 

The abundance of seafood in the Ten Thousand Islands area has attracted humans for thousands of years. Prehistoric indigenous human populations utilized the area extensively, constructing large shell midden complexes on several islands. Early Spanish explorers traded with the native inhabitants, but European diseases decimated the coastal Indian populations. During the late 1880's, white settlers began occupying several of the larger islands. Commercial fishing was the primary source of income for these families. By the 1940's, only a few hermits remained on islands within the Ten Thousand Islands area. Improved amenities on the mainland encouraged pioneer families to move to Everglades City, Marco Island, or Naples. Consequently, today the refuge is uninhabited and nearly as pristine as it was when the early settlers arrived. 

 
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge is part of the largest expanse of mangrove forest in North America. Approximately two thirds of the refuge is mangrove forest, which dominates most tidal fringes and the numerous islands, or keys. The northern third of the refuge consists of brackish marsh and interspersed ponds, small coastal hammocks of oak, cabbage palms, and tropical hardwoods such as gumbo limbo.


Location 

The refuge is located approximately 20 miles southeast of Naples, FL on the south side of U.S. 41. The eastern boundary lies just east of the Port of the Islands community and Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. The western boundary is adjacent to Collier-Seminole State Park. The refuge surrounds the town of Goodland, just off of County Road 92. The Gulf of Mexico forms the southern boundary. 

 
The refuge is best accessed by boat. The two prominent boating access points are found in Goodland and Port of the Islands. Take U.S. 41 south out of Naples and drive 12 miles to Hwy 92, turn right and drive 5 miles to Goodland, or continue on U.S. 41 for 5 miles to Port of the Islands. 

 
Public access to the refuge is also available via the Marsh Trail. With an 18 space parking lot, this area includes a mile-long hiking trail, canoe and kayak trails, and an observation tower overlooking the marsh. The Marsh Trail parking lot is located about three miles east of Collier-Seminole State Park and County Road 92. Getting there from I-75 in Naples, take exit 101. Then follow Collier Blvd south to its junction with U.S. 41. Turn left. The Marsh Trail access area is 11 miles east along U.S. 41. Turnoffs for Goodland and Collier-Seminole State Park will be passed before you reach the parking area near mile marker 31.


Headquarters 

Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast Refuge Complex, along with its sister refuge Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. The headquarters for these Refuges is located at 12085 State Road 29 South Immokalee, FL 34142. Please note that headquarters is not where most visitor activities take place for Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Headquarters can be reached via phone at 239-657-8001, fax at 239-657-8002, or general email at floridapanther@fws.gov