Description - J.N. "Ding" National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of over 6,000 acres on the lee side of Sanibel Island. The refuge is named after the famed federal duck stamp artist. The federal parcel home to nearly 300 species of resident and migratory bird species including raptors, water birds, and waterfowl. The refuge highlights this feature through its two observation towers, its wildlife drive and miles of canoe and hiking trails. Best bird watching opportunities exist in February. The refuge is also a popular crabbing and fishing site.
Copyright: Joyce Rankin-Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
Relax With the Wildlife Along the West Coast
- The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located in Lee County, Florida on Sanibel Island. Sanibel Island is a subtropical barrier island that lies along the southwest coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.
The refuge's unique vegetative communities (mangroves forests, freshwater Spartina marshes, and West Indian hardwood hammocks) create a blend of habitats that attract a wide variety of wildlife. The vegetative communities of Sanibel Island are unusual for several reasons: 1.) freshwater marshes rarely occur on coastal islands; 2.) mangrove estuaries, the predominant habitat type, produce as much as 80% of the total organic material available in the aquatic food web, and 3.) the tropical hardwood hammocks contain some of the United States' rarest plants and animals.
The 6,300-acre refuge consists of several tracts of land. The 4,900-acre Darling Tract is primarily mangrove wetlands and mud flats on the bay side of the island. It contains two brackish impoundments totaling 850 acres that are used extensively by migratory and wading birds. Approximately 2,800 acres of the tract have been designated as a wilderness area.
The 100-acre Bailey Tract is located in the central part of the Island and is typical of the interior freshwater wetland habitat. The Bailey Tract contains several small dredged ponds and trails that crisscross the land. The Perry Tract is three acres of Gulfside beachfront property, where one can observe native dune vegetation without the intrusion of exotic species. Several endangered and threatened species benefit from the habitats described including Eastern indigo snakes, American alligators, American crocodile, bald eagles, wood storks, peregrine falcons, and manatees.
Recreation - The J.N. "Ding" National Wildlife Refuge is a 6,300-acre subtropical wildlife paradise. Protective lands are available for public enjoyment, observation, instruction and recreation. The refuge offers auto touring, boating, a historical site, fishing opportunities and hiking trails. All this and more can be reviewed by first touring the visitor center. Tourists will find some of Florida's best wildlife viewing, nature photography and sunset impressions.
Nearby attractions on Sanibel Island include the Sanibel Island State Botanical Site, the Gulfside City Park / Algiers Swimming Beach, Sanibel Beach and the Lighthouse Pier and Park. Hikers might be interested in exploring the trails offered by the Sanibel-Capitiva Conservation Foundation. A visitor center is found along the south side of the Sanibel-Capitiva Road, just west of the Bailey Tract and Tarpon Bay Road.
Climate - The climate in southern Florida is subtropical, with mild winters and hot, wet summers. It is not unusual for temperatures to exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit with averages reaching above 83 degrees Fahrenheit (above 29 Celsius). Winters are mild and dry with temperatures averaging above 64 degrees Fahrenheit (above 18 Celsius). Yearly precipitation for the southwest area is more than 56 inches. Lightweight clothing for hot temperatures is suggested. Long sleeves, pants, sturdy shoes and bug repellent are recommended if hiking.
Located along the Gulf Coast below Cape Coral, the refuge may be accessed by travel the Sanibel Causeway from State Route 867.