Visitor Activities


“When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all.” – EO Wilson

  • Hunting

    Waterfowl Hunting

    Hunting is an important wildlife management tool that we recognize as a healthy, traditional, outdoor pastime deeply rooted in America’s heritage.  Hunting can instill a unique understanding and appreciate of wildlife, their behavior, and their habitat needs.

    As practiced on refuges, hunting, trapping and fishing do not pose a threat to wildlife populations, and in some instances are necessary for sound wildlife management.  For example, because their natural predators are gone, deer populations will often grow too large for the refuge habitat to support.

    Hunting programs can promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on lands and waters in the Refuge System.


    Hunting at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge

    Waterfowl hunting is permitted at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife. This hunting is allowed by Refuge permit and all state regulations apply. An early Teal season opens in late September. Waterfowl season starts in late November and is open until January. 

    Click here for the 2017-2018 Ten Thousand Islands NWR Waterfowl Hunting Regulations and Permit.

    To hunt legally on the Refuge, you must have a Refuge permit completed, signed, and in your possession. The permit signature section is located on the front of the brochure and is not transferable. Each hunter in your party is required to carry a Refuge permit in addition to all other state and federal licenses, stamps, and permits. If you wish to obtain more than one copy of the permit, please print multiple copies from the web address. If you are unable to connect to the internet or print a copy of the permit, please contact our office for assistance at 239-657-8001.

    Click here to consult the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for waterfowl hunting information and regulations.

  • Fishing


    In addition to the conservation of wildlife and habitat, the Refuge System offers a wide variety of quality fishing opportunities.  Fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the Refuge System.  Every year, about 7 million anglers visit national wildlife refuges, where knowledgeable staff and thousands of volunteers help them have a wonderful fishing experience.

    Quality fishing opportunities are available on more than 270 National Wildlife Refuges.  Visitors can experience virtually type of sport fishing on the continent.  From inconnu and grayling in remote Alaska, to snook hovering by mangroves in Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, National Wildlife Refuges offer anglers adventure and diversity.

    For a great place to reconnect with a favorite childhood activity or to try it for the first time, make plans to fish at a national wildlife refuge soon.  Find more information with our on-line Guide to Fishing on National Wildlife Refuges.


    Fishing at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge 

    Fishing is the most popular recreational activity in the Refuge. Fishing is productive year-round. Common saltwater sport fish at Ten Thousand Islands include tarpon, snook, redfish, seatrout, and mangrove snapper. Check local phone listings for tour or fishing guides. Or call headquarters at 239-657-8001 for information on permitted vendors in the Refuge.  

    Click here to consult the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commission for more information on fishing in Florida’s saltwater. 

  • Wildlife Viewing and Photography

    Dolphin Watching

    Wildlife Viewing

    If you enjoy getting outdoors and looking for wildlife, consider a visit to your nearest National Wildlife Refuge!  From birding to whale watching, from viewing speedy pronghorn antelope or slow-moving box turtles, wildlife observation is the most popular activity for Refuge visitors.

    From every state and all parts of the globe, about 40 million people visit each year, especially for the chance to see concentrations of wildlife and birds.  The National Wildlife Refuge System’s extensive trail system, boardwalks, observation decks, hunting and photography blinds, fishing piers and boat launches encourage visitors to discover America’s best wildlife spectacles.  


    Wildlife Photography

    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on National Wildlife Refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography.  That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate.  You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started.  A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

    Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and National Wildlife Refuges naturally are at the top of the list.  Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, and tour routes.  Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System.  We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card or internal hard drive! 


    Wildlife Viewing and Photography at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge 

    One of the best ways to view wildlife at Ten Thousand Islands is from our Marsh Trail and Observation Tower. This 2.2 mile round trip trek follows the only access trail found on the refuge. The first ¼ mile of the trail is paved, the rest being a wide gravel road. The 2-story observation tower includes wildlife viewing scopes, benches, and the first level is handicap accessible.

    Manatees and dolphins are commonly seen in the rivers and bays of Ten Thousand Islands NWR. At Port of the Islands Marina visitors can often view manatees. Whether stopping by the Marina to view the manatees or launch a vessel into the Ten Thousand Islands waters, be sure to stop at the small education center inside the Marina store!

    Birders will be delighted with the variety of feathered friends present on the refuge and especially visible from the Marsh Trail. Birds are best viewed during the winter season, from approximately October – March.  Wading birds such as egrets, herons, including the black-crowned night-heron, and white ibis are often plentiful. Roseate spoonbills and wood stork also regularly make an appearance on the Refuge. More than 40 species of birds have been seen from the trail and observation tower. Other sighted species include osprey, bald eagles, mangrove cuckoos, swallow-tailed kites, prairie warblers, and black-whiskered vireos.

    Sea turtles, most commonly loggerhead and green, nest on the outer barrier islands of the Refuge. Visitors are welcome to view flagged nests during the summer months and may see the occasional turtle near shore. Please keep in mind that sea turtles are a protected species. Do not disturb or harass nests, hatchlings, or nesting mothers in any way. To learn more about sea turtles and their management at Ten Thousand Islands NWR check out the resource management section of this website!

  • Boating, Canoeing, and Kayaking

    Marsh Canoe

    One of the best ways to enjoy Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge is from the water

    The refuge offers four canoe and kayak trails with launch sites located off of U.S. 41. The Refuge currently does not provide parking for trails 1, 3, and 4; Please use caution when accessing those areas along U.S. 41.

    In the northern marsh canoeing and kayaking is allowed, but visitors should check water levels beforehand because they vary greatly seasonally. Most areas for canoe and kayaks are best accessible from mid summer to early winter. Please contact the refuge office at 239-657-8001 for current water levels or route suggestions.

  • Camping

    Island Camping

    October-April Camping at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge

    Camping on the white sands of Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge offers a primitive Southwest Florida experience that is often an ideal complement to fishing, canoeing and kayaking, or simply connecting with nature in the Refuge. 

    Camping is allowed only on the outer barrier islands of the Refuge for fishing and wildlife observation. Camping is permitted October-April. The Refuge is closed to camping May-September due to nesting shorebirds and sea turtles. Camping does not require a permit or reservations, free spaces are available on a first come/first serve basis. There are no facilities on the islands, so come completely prepared. If campfires are built, only dead branches can be used. No cutting or clearing of live plants is allowed. Have water readily available to prevent fire accidents. All National Wildlife Refuge rules and regulations apply to campers at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Please familiarize yourself with these rules and important emergency phone numbers for your safety while on the islands.

    Practice “Leave No Trace” to minimize the damage to wildlife habitats. Click here for more information on Leave No Trace techniques.