J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge
1 Wildlife Dr.
Sanibel, FL 33957
Mission: The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge was created to safeguard and enhance the pristine wildlife habitat of Sanibel Island, to protect endangered and threatened species, and to provide feeding, nesting, and roosting areas for migratory birds. Today, the refuge provides important habitat to over 220 species of birds.
Open to Public: Yes
Exhibits: The Education Center, the refuge's visitor center, features interactive exhibits on refuge ecosystems, the work of "Ding" Darling, migratory flyways, the National Wildlife Refuge System, and a hands-on area for children. The Wildlife Drive, the refuge's public access road, is open Saturday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 1/2 hour before sunset. There are three trails that can be accessed from Wildlife Drive. The 4 mile, round-trip Indigo Trail leaves from the Education Center parking lot and ends at the cross-dike, which extends from the Drive. The Wulfert Keys Trail off the Drive is a 1/4 mile trail leading to a view of Pine Island Sound. The Shell Mound Trail is a 1/4 mile, universally accessible, interpretive boardwalk. The Bailey Tract is located off Tarpon Bay Rd. This 100-acre region is a unique area of the refuge with its interior wetland where freshwater plants and wildlife dominate Other recreational opportunities include fishing, boating, kayak/canoeing, bicycling, nature photography, and bird watching.
Events & Activities: Tours are offered through the refuge's concessionaire Tarpon Bay Explorers. They run the guided tram tours along the Wildlife Drive leaving from the Education Center parking lot. At the Tarpon Bay Recreation Area, Tarpon Bay Explorers provide kayak/canoe and sea life interpretive tours, and visitors can view refuge marine life up close. Visitors may also rent bicycles, kayaks, canoes, pontoon boats, and fishing equipment; purchase bait and fishing licenses; or book a charter fishing trip. There are also Refuge Environmental Education Field Trips and School outreach opportunities.
Additional Resources: The Refuge website provides links for other local and regional wildlife areas as well as links for refuge friends and concessionaires. At the refuge there is also a bookstore with many educational materials that can be seen at www.dingdarlingstore.com A brochure of the Refuge is also available.
Behind the Scenes: Many National Wildlife Refuges receive valuable support from private, non-profit organizations that enter into formal agreements to be Friends groups. The "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society, founded in 1982, is the Friends Group of the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
Volunteer Opportunities: The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge has a very successful volunteer program. Starting in 1982 with one volunteer, the program now has over 250 volunteers that perform a wide array of duties for the refuge. Volunteering generally involves working a 3 to 3.5 hour shift once a week; although, some volunteers work more due to multiple duties they enjoy performing.
Prepared by VF