About Us

Passage Key is located at the mouth of Tampa Bay in Manatee County, south of Egmont Key. President Theodore Roosevelt established Passage Key NWR in 1905 to preserve nesting colonies of native seabirds and wading birds. In the early 1900's Passage Key was a 60-acre mangrove island with a freshwater lake. Today, Passage Key is a low-lying sandbar that fluctuates in size, and is found often completely below water during high tide. 

More than 50 species of birds have used this small area including nesting American oystercatchers, black skimmers, royal and sandwich terns, and laughing gulls. 

Passage Key NWR is closed to public use year-round.  

Passage Key NWR is managed as part of the Crystal River NWR Complex.

Our Mission


Passage Key NWR will strive to preserve, restore, and enhance the exceptional diversity of native fauna of Passage Key and its surrounding waters for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans. 

Passage Key provides essential wildlife habitat with opportunities for research, and quality environmental and outdoor recreation. Passage Key NWR is a vital link in the Tampa Bay area for nesting, resting, and wintering migratory birds. Protecting this refuge with its diverse and abundant wildlife is critical for ensuring the enjoyment of the island by future generations. 

To meet these challenges, the Service will seek partnerships with other agencies, interest groups, and local communities. These efforts will result in greater protection of wildlife, fish, and plant resources throughout west-central Florida. 


Refuge Purpose(s) 

Each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System is established to serve a statutory purpose that targets the conservation of native species dependent on its lands and waters. All activities on those acres are reviewed for compatibility with this statutory purpose.  

The purpose of the refuge is as follows: 

  1. Provide nesting, feeding and resting habitat for colonial water birds, including laughing gulls, royal terns, black skimmers, sandwich terns, brown pelicans and oyster catchers.

  2. Provide critical habitat and protection for thousands of shore birds and water birds.