Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Florida

(321) 861-0667

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (MINWR) headquarters is located five miles east of U.S. 1 in Titusville, Florida. The Refuge, which is an overlay of the John F. Kennedy Space Center, was established in August 1963 to provide a buffer zone for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the quest for space exploration. Approximately one half the Refuge's 140,000 acres consist of brackish estuaries and marshes. The remaining lands consist of coastal dunes, scrub oaks, pine forests and flatwoods, and palm and oak hammocks. The coastal location of MINWR, with its seven distinct habitat types and position between the subtropic and temperate zones contribute to the Refuge's importance as a major wintering area for migratory birds. Over 500 species of wildlife inhabit the Refuge with 16 currently listed as federally threatened or endangered. Several wading bird rookeries, approximately 10 active bald eagle nests, numerous osprey nests, up to 400 manatees and an estimated 2,500 Florida scrub jays can be found on the Refuge. The objectives of MINWR are to provide habitat for migratory birds, to protect endangered and threatened species, to provide habitat for natural wildlife diversity, and to provide opportunities for environmental education, interpretation, and compatible wildlife-oriented recreation. In addition, as part of a complex, MINWR administers Lake Wales Ridge and St. John's National Wildlife Refuges.

Map of Merritt Island NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 28.647210, -80.699387

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Activities

  • Boating

    There are several protected-water areas that provide ideal locations for canoeing kayaking, and small open boats. These include Turnbull Creek, Dummitt Creek, Eddy Creek, and the waters west of the spoil islands in Mosquito Lagoon. Except by permitted hunters during waterfowl season, canoeing and kayaking is not permitted in refuge impoundments. Boating is permitted in the open waters of the Banana River, Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon. However, these lagoon waters have high levels of motor boat traffic (except Banana River) and offer little protection from boat wakes and high winds. As such, they are not ideal for paddling.

  • Bird Watching

    Merritt Island NWR is known for its abundant birdlife and is a major destination for birders from throughout the world. Over 320 species have been documented so no matter what season you visit, you are likely to see a variety of birds. The peak season for birding is the cooler months between October and April with optimum conditions occurring from December to February. During these periods, hundreds of thousands of migratory birds use the refuge as a temporary rest stop or spend the entire winter season loafing in refuge impoundments which creates excellent birding opportunities. During warmer months, after the migratory birds have returned to their northern breeding grounds, resident wading birds, shore birds, songbirds and raptors forage in refuge marshes, open waters, and forested uplands to feed their young.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    Black Point Wildlife Drive is a seven mile, one way, self-guided auto tour through salt and freshwater marshes. The drive offers several stops, which are described in a brochure that can be picked up at the visitor center or the entrance to the drive. Wading birds, shorebirds, raptors, waterfowl, alligators, otters, and other species of wildlife can be spotted along the drive. Black Point Wildlife Drive is a sevenmile, one way, self-guided auto tour through salt and freshwater marshes. The drive offers several stops, which are described in a brochure that can be picked up at the visitor center or the entrance to the drive. Wading The Cruickshank Trail and Tower are located at stop #8 on the drive, and offers a view of the surrounding marshes. The entrance to the drive is located on SR 406, one mile east of the intersection of SR 402 and SR 406.

  • Fishing

    Merritt Island NWR is a great place for saltwater anglers to try their luck. Sea trout, red drum, black drum, snook, and tarpon are the main catch. A fishing brochure describing the refuge regulations and a map can be obtained at the visitor center. Other regulations are set by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

  • Hiking

    Hiking the refuge is most pleasant in the fall, winter and early spring. The 1/4-mile boardwalk behind the visitor center offers a short walk with interpretive panels. Oak Hammock Trail (1/2 mile) and Palm Hammock Trial (2 miles) share a common parking lot 1-mile east of the Visitor Center. Oak Hammock Trail's interpretive signs explain the ecology of the hammock's plant community. Cruickshank Trail (5 miles) is located at stop #8 on Black Point Wildlife Drive. The Scrub Trail (1-mile) is located north of SR 406 on SR 3.

  • Hunting

    Waterfowl hunting is allowed on the refuge on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays and federal holidays from mid-November through mid-January. An early teal season is usually set for one week in late September. A hunting brochure describing refuge regulations and permits can be obtained at the visitor center.

Park Partners

Merritt Island Wildlife Association

The Merritt Island Wildlife Association promotes conservation, awareness and appreciation of one of Florida's most diverse wetland habitats through education programs and special events. They also support upgrading and constructing important interpretive facilities such as the Sendler Pavilion, which educates thousands of school children annually, and the Black Point Wildlife Drive Enhancement Project.

(321) 861-2377

Directions

Driving

From I-95: take Exit 80 (SR 406, Garden St.) east through Titusville. Cross over the Indian River Lagoon. The Refuge entrance sign and information kiosk are located on the east side of the Indian River Lagoon. Refuge maps and brochures are available at the kiosk. Continue east for 4 miles to reach the visitor information center, located on the right side of the road.

From U.S. 1: follow U.S. 1 to Titusville. At the intersection with SR 406 (Garden St.), turn east. Cross over the Indian River Lagoon and follow the above directions.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(321) 861-0667

Links