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J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Lee County
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Tarpon Bay Road


This place is an absolute paradise for birders. The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge isn't just one of the best spots in South Florida to see our avian friends; it's one of the top spots in the nation. Shore birds, waders, hawks, migratory birds, year-round residents can be found in its 6,400 acres. Among the species we saw during our two-visit in October: bald eagles, magnificent frigate birds, reddish egrets and white pelicans. Also spotted, cormorants, anhingas, green herons, willets, black-bellied plovers, ospreys, ibis roseate spoonbills — the list goes on and on.

But the refuge offers a lot more than birds. Snakes gators, racoons, rabbits, butterfiles, wildflowers, dolphins and manatees were evident during our stay. Trees were covered with mangove crabs; horseshoe crabs were found in various spots along the main trail. What makes "Ding" Darling — named after the noted newspaper cartoonist and conservation advocate — so special is its marine habitats — mangrove forests, estuaries, bays and inlets — which nurtures life along every link of the food chain. The place is a natural paradise.

The refuge is the heart and soul of conservation-minded Sanibel Island. Admission to the nature center is free but to take in Wildlife Drive requires a fee of $1 per pedestrian or bicyclist, or $5 per car. The drive is closed every Friday. Also part of "Ding" Darling is the Bailey Tract.

More Resources for J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Institute for Regional Conservation Friends of Ding Darling NWR Ding Darling NWR Facebook  
Photo Gallery for J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
bird horseshoe crab osprey coastal goldenrod
marsh rabbit white flower racoon reddish egret
alligator night heron morning glory mottled duck
willet common buckeye brown pelican red mangrove flowers
little blue heron spoonbill rat snake tern
orange flowers snowy egret cormorant mangrove crab
Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without their express permission.