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Regardless of whether you are birdwatching, walking a trail or boating, a true “wilderness experience” requires proper preparation. To ensure your personal safety, consider the following guidelines before you go:

  • File a Float Plan (does someone know where you are going and when you will return?)
  • Wear your life jacket while onboard a vessel.
  • Carry a compass, chart, and whistle.
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks, even if you are only expecting to be out for a short trip.
  • Be aware of weather and tide conditions.

It is also within reason to anticipate a wildlife encounter. Bears, panthers, snakes, fire ants and poison ivy could pose risk to visitors who are ill prepared and/or are not alert for these potential hazards. Have a camera handy, however, keep your distance from any wildlife for your own safety and that of the wildlife.

Leave No Trace

trash pick-upThe Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve encourages visitors to utilize Leave No Trace (LNT) guidelines. These guidelines provide a set of “outdoor good manners” to protect wild places from unintended abuse by outdoor enthusiasts.

Originally established by the National Outdoor Leadership School, the first guidelines were intended for backpackers and mountain campers. Due to rapid population growth in southwest Florida, the need for an outdoor etiquette for boaters, birders, beach enthusiasts and recreational fishermen has increased.

The Reserve recommends following the Center for Outdoor Ethics guidelines to ensure your visit to this pristine estuary will... leave no trace.

The down and dirty details are as follows:
  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Use designated trails. Off-trail excursions destroy native vegetation and cause dune erosion.
  • Take your trash with you. Garbage of any sort is unsightly and ruins the aesthetic experience of enjoying the wilderness of the Rookery Bay Reserve. Glass bottles are a safety hazard to visitors and wildlife. Plastic wraps and bags pose serious threats to wildlife. Monofilament fishing line is deadly to birds and many other forms of wildlife.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Avoid building campfires. Aside from the obvious wildfire threat, campfire scars are very unsightly and long lasting. Carefully use cookstoves and lanterns instead.
  • Respect wildlife.

Download and Print the Leave No Trace Guidelines

Visit the Leave No Trace: Center for Outdoor Ethics website.

Protect Wildlife

white ibisAll plants and animals are protected.
Respect areas closed for nesting birds.

Shorebirds typically nest on beaches from April to August. Some wading birds use mangrove rookeries all year round.

Stay away from resting birds so they do not flush.

Coastal development has resulted in the loss of habitat needed by shorebirds for foraging and resting. Flushed birds expend valuable energy needed for survival.

Take no live shells.

Responsible Boating

Operate boats safely and courteously.

Observe manatee slow zones

Manatees are hard to spot. The greatest mortality among these endangered mammals is due to boat impacts.

Avoid prop dredging

Many of the inshore waters in Collier County have average depths less than three feet. Scars which result from boat props cutting through the bottom in shallow water is detrimental to the dwindling seagrass habitat throughout the Reserve.

Watch your wake

Small boats or canoes may be easily over turned by the wake of large speeding vessels.

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