Calusa Culture

Thousands of years ago, indigenous people called the Calusa inhabited much of coastal Southwest Florida. Numerous Calusa settlements were developed along the Collier County coastline and were occupied from 400 to 2,500 years ago.

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Prehistory | Rookery Bay Research Reserve | Blue

Early 1880's

Pioneer Era

The Little Marco Settlement was established between Naples and Marco Island, shortly after the Homestead Act began encouraging Americans to spread out across the country. Located along the banks of Henderson Creek and Hall Bay, from Shell Island to Little Marco Island, dozens of homesteads formed this waterfront community that pre-dated the City of Naples. People primarily made a living off the richness of the estuary, catching fish, harvesting shellfish, and also growing small plots of winter vegetables.

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Pioneer Era | Family | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


Recent History

With farms, buildings, roads and canals springing up across coastal Collier County, residents started to take notice that the once pristine bays and estuaries were showing the effects of development upstream. A 10-mile loop road through Rookery Bay proposed in 1963 would have opened up unbounded opportunities for coastal development, but a new perspective emerged in the community.

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Monument | 1960's History | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


Concerned citizens block “Road to Nowhere.”
Loop Road | History | Marco Island | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


The Collier County Conservancy is formed and $300,000 raised to begin purchase of the Rookery Bay properties.
History | Rookery Bay Research Reserve | Lavern Gaynor Family | Collier Conservancy


The Conservancy purchased an additional $150,000 of Rookery Bay property and deeded it to the National Audubon Society. They loaned money to buy one mile of beach near Wiggins Pass until the State could purchase it.
Rookery Bay Research Reserve History | Deed Given to Audubon in Naples


Acquired entire western boundary of Rookery Bay for $240,000 and received from the Collier families a gift of 390 acres of islands guarding south entrances
Rookery Bay Research Reserve History | Rube Allyn's Fishing Map


Purchased 2,000 acres in the Ten Thousand Islands area for $245,000 and presented the land to the state for protection. Area designated as Cape Romano – Ten Thousand Islands Aquatic Preserve. Also bought 40 acres of land and buildings on Henderson Creek and used the purchase to establish a Marine Research Facility at Rookery Bay.
History 10,000 Islands | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


Raised $800,000 in eight weeks to pay for past and future land purchases. Acquired Shell Point for $235,000, completely enclosing Rookery Bay.
Shell Point Aerieal | History | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


Continued making purchases around Rookery Bay.
Continued Purchasing | History | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


Obtained 258 more acres near Rookery Bay.
History | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


Persuaded the state to buy a large portion of Cape Romano
History | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


Won a three-year battle to deny permits to Deltona Corporation which would have destroyed 3,200 acres of Marco wetlands
History | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


Completed work to get Rookery Bay declared National Estuarine Research Reserve.
History | Rookery Bay Designated National Sanctuary | NOAA | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


Orchestrated land exchange after 14 years of negotiations with Deltona. Deltona swapped 13,000 acres of wetlands and islands surrounding Marco for equally valuable uplands.
Deltona Corporation | History | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


Conservancy efforts led to acquisition of Cannon Island by the State of Florida.
Cannon Island | History | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


95 percent completion of CARL identified properties surrounding Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Effort underway to expand boundaries of Rookery Bay Reserve to include the Cape-Romano – Ten Thousand Island Aquatic Preserves and all CARL, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and Conservancy acquisitions.
History | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


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