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kayak and boat tours

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Rookery Bay Reserve is yours to explore, enjoy, and help protect. See below for details on primitive camping, fishing, nature trails, geocaching, and other compatible activities that are encouraged. A marked paddling trail exists at the mouth of Henderson Creek. A primitive ramp at the end of Shell Island Road allows for small vessel access into the Reserve (use at your own risk). See printable map in sidebar.

Driving Directions to Shell Island Road Boat Launch

From the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, continue 2 miles south on Collier Blvd. Turn right on Shell Island Road (look for binocular and canoe sign). Drive down Shell Island Road 2.5 miles to the very end of the road.

Camping

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Primitive camping is allowed in designated locations within the reserve. These "Designated Areas" are marked with on the map above. Designated camping locations within the Reserve include: Dickman's Point, Gullivan Key, White Horse Key, Hog Key, and Camp Lulu. We do not have a permitting or reservation system, and these sites are only available on a first-come, first-served basis. Campers found camping in locations that are not designated for this use may be asked to leave by FWC or other law enforcement entity.

Keewaydin Island, Morgan Beach, and Second Chance Shoal have restricted access April - August. There is no overnight parking at Collier County boat ramps, except for at Port of the Islands marina and at the Goodland boat park (fee is $10 per vehicle per night).

We strongly encourage all boaters to file a float plan with a friend or family member who will be responsible for notifying the coast guard in the event the boater does not return as scheduled.

Remember, this is a “wilderness experience!” Campers must be aware there are NO facilities available. In order to maintain a pristine environment for wildlife and other visitors please observe the following guidelines at all times when visiting or camping in natural areas:

  • Pack out all your trash including unsanitary and unsightly toilet paper
  • Human feces are a health hazard – see wilderness hygiene guidelines below
  • Do not leave camping equipment behind – take everything back with you.
  • Properly dispose all food items: and do not discard food or rinds on the island or in the water.
Campfire Guidelines

Fires are permitted in designated camping areas, but they must be attended at all times.

  • Do not burn wood pallets. They leave behind dangerous nails.
  • Do not burn trash. Broken glass bottles and cans are dangerous.
  • If you dig a fire pit, fill it in when you are done.
  • If you use charcoal, do not leave briquettes behind on the beach or in vegetation.
Wilderness Hygiene
  • Use facilities on board your boat, or a “portable potty”, and dispose of properly when in port.
  • Urinate below the high tide line and away from other people.
  • Dig a cat hole above the high tide line and at least eight inches deep for any fecal waste. Carry out waste paper in a ziplock baggie for proper disposal.

Fishing

Fishing is permitted throughout the Reserve as long as all activities comply with state laws as governed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

BEFORE YOU DO ANY RECREATIONAL FISHING PLEASE READ THE LATEST REGULATIONS.

Recreational fishing represents a primary public use of Reserve resources, and there are numerous charter boats, fishing guides, and boat rental services nearby to quench the thirst of sport fishermen. In the quiet backwaters of the Reserve, some of the most popular recreational species include redfish, mangrove (gray) snapper, spotted sea trout, and the ever-elusive tarpon. Snook populations are still rebounding from the freeze of 2010 and seasonal closures remain in effect.

Sustainable Fishing Practices

Sport fishing is a popular pastime within the boundaries of Rookery Bay. Proper fish handling and compliance with state and federal regulations helps ensure Florida's fisheries remain healthy and productive. Find the most up to date information on research-based catch and release practices from Florida Sea Grant to help protect and conserve our marine fisheries.

Read more about Catch & Release Fishing

Learn more about the Florida Sea Grant

Geocaching

geocacheGeocaching has become a popular way of enjoying the outdoors since the international trend ramped up in 2000. Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is now using this technology to engage its visitors and has launched a new set of caches on the Environmental Learning Center grounds.

Geocaching is modern-day treasure hunting using geographic positioning system (GPS)-enabled devices such as smart phones. Participants find their desired cache online, download and navigate to its set of GPS coordinates, and then attempt to find the container, or cache, hidden at that location. Once a cache is found, the finder records their presence in the logbook and on the geocaching website, replaces a trinket inside with their own, and takes away a greater understanding of the natural and cultural features in the area.

Four caches in total have been placed in the reserve with varying levels of difficulty. The first one was launched in the parking area in August and has had 14 "finds." One of the new multi-caches includes "Pioneers in Paradise," which is located near a cultural site on the Snail Trail. The other two caches, "CatBird Loop" and "Slash Pine," take geocachers on a nature filled walk on primitive trails.

To find the cache, visit geocaching.com or navicache.com and search for all caches owned by Rookery Bay.

Comments received from geocachers shared with other users on the Geocaching.com website include "Great trails to hike on a super day!" and "Never been to the center before, we'll be back for sure!" A cache-in, trash-out motto is encouraged to minimize disturbance to natural sites.

Geocache By Kayak
This cache is one of 25 caches that have been placed on and around the Shell Point Canoe Trail. These caches have been placed with the approval of the kind folks at Rookery Bay. This trail will take you to some of the most beautiful mangrove estuaries in geocache-mapFlorida. I was accompanied by FLPirate, who helped me place these caches. Total length of this trip was 7.75 miles. Be sure to leave your tracking on, so that you can find your way out. The Shell Point section of the trail is marked clearly by sign posts. It is best to follow the numbers from low to high. At number 25 you are 1.25 miles from the launch point, but trust me it will be a lot further to paddle there. There will be a Mystery/Unknown published with this series. In order to find it you will have to find 15 of these caches and record the letter and associated number to give you the correct coordinates.

Keewaydin Island

Click here to learn more about Key (Keewaydin) Island

Nature Trails

Located near the end of Shell Island Road, the “Trails Through Time” is a series of four trails each approximately ¼ mile long. Botanical signage has been installed along the trails to assist visitors in identifying various native trees.

Trails Through Time

Shell Mound Trail

The Shell Mound Trail starts at the RBNERR field station. The trail follows a mangrove fringing shoreline adjacent to pre-Calusa midden sites, historical sites and an active habitat restoration project in progress. Visitors can learn about native peoples and pioneers who previously lived in the Rookery Bay area, as well as the role of the local community in establishing the Reserve, through self-guided interpretive signs.

Learn more about the earliest residents of this land

Monument Point Trail

Monument Point Trail begins near the end of the Shell Mound Trail at the Shell Island Road boat ramp and leads visitors to the Children’s Monument on the bank of Henderson Creek. The monument recognizes the efforts of school children involved in helping to raise initial funds for purchasing core lands around Rookery Bay in the 1960’s. This trail is frequently used by visitors to access recreational fishing on the creek.

 

Paddlecraft Park

Isles of Capri Paddlecraft Park

The Isles of Capri Paddlecraft Park is the only public access facility in Collier County designed exclusively for launching paddle crafts, which are non-motorized vessels such as canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. The facility features a ramp, picnic pavilions, and restrooms which will also be accessible to pedestrians from the nearby Collier Boulevard boat ramp. The Park provides public access to McIlvane Bay, a shallow mangrove fringed bay that provides outstanding opportunities for wildlife viewing and exploring quiet backwaters in a relatively unexplored part of the Reserve.

Collier County Parks & Recreation has entered into an agreement with the Reserve to manage the park for sustainable use. Launch fees are $4.

CLICK HERE to read the Naples News coverage of the park opening!

View Paddlecraft Park layout
View Paddle Map with rough paddle trail

Prohibited Activities

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Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Wilderness Area: Practice “Leave No Trace” guidelines

PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES

• Unleashed pets
• Unattended fires
• Hunting, harassing or possessing wildlife
• Use of firearms or weapons
• Removal or disturbance of natural or cultural resources
• Pollution or destruction of property

Rule 18-23.007 Florida Administrative Code Chapter 253 Florida Statutes

To report violations call 1-888-404-FWCC or (239) 938-1800 for DEP Park Patrol

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve: (239) 530-5940

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