Explore Your Reserve
Rookery Bay Research Reserve is yours to explore and enjoy. Recreational opportunities abound for kayakers & boaters, campers, anglers & shellers, beachgoers, nature photographers, birdwatchers and more!
Enjoy your visit to Rookery Bay! Just remember to practice the “Leave No Trace” guidelines and abide by the important rules above. A complete list of rules for visiting Rookery Bay Reserve can be found here.
EXPLORING ROOKERY BAY
Rookery Bay Research Reserve and neighboring parks and preserves are a prime location for birders. People come from all over the world to see the tropical birds that call the Reserve home all year-round including Roseate Spoonbills, Egrets and Herons. There are also many birds that migrate to the area in the winter or stop to rest while migrating even further south into South America. Whether you’re on a beach, in a boat or just visiting a local park, Southwest Florida is a bird lovers paradise!
The Reserve’s 110,000 acres provide campers with access to one of the few remaining undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America. Primitive camping is allowed in designated locations. Designated camping locations include: Dickman’s Point, Gullivan Key, White Horse Key, Hog Key, and Camp Lulu. Review the guidelines and safety tips to ensure your next camping trip is memorable.
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, snook and the ever-elusive tarpon.
Geocaching 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.
Keewaydin Island, locally known as Key Island, is a special place. It serves as a sanctuary for wildlife and a recreational destination for local residents and tourists. The 8-mile-long island is one of southwest Florida’s largest unbridged barrier islands. Least terns and loggerhead sea turtles use the island’s pristine beach as a vital nesting ground. People also enjoy the island, which provides a great opportunity to experience Florida’s natural coast. Thousands of boaters visit the island each year, boosting our local economy through rentals and purchases of boats, fishing tackle, and fuel.
Located near the end of Shell Island Road, the “Trails Through Time” is a series of four trails, each approximately ¼ mile long. Signage along the trail helps visitors to identify various native trees. NOTICE: trails are currently overgrown and not suitable for hiking. Please check back for updates.
Wildlife in the Reserve
The Reserve encompasses 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters, providing habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals. From barrier island beach and mangrove forest to freshwater marsh and pine flatwoods, these habitats enable animals big and small to fill a niche on land, in the air or underwater.
The Research Department monitors water, weather, and wildlife to detect short-term events and long-term change. Like watchdogs for wildlife and wild places, researchers can detect differences before they become problems for the environment, community, or local businesses.
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