The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located on Sanibel Island is a subtropical barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, hemmed by mangrove trees, shallow bays and white sandy beaches.
Ding Darling land indicated by darker green color
: : Click the image to enlarge map : :
Two thousand eight hundred and twenty five (2,825) acres of the 6,300-acre refuge have been designated as Wilderness Area.
Located approximately 15 miles southwest of Ft. Myers FL, on Sanibel Island, the refuge is connected to the mainland by the three mile long Sanibel Causeway.
Originally named the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge, the name was changed in 1967 to honor Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling, an editorial cartoonist, pioneer conservationist and originator of the federal Duck Stamp Program. Darling, who was the first director of what is now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wintered on the neighboring island of Captiva.
The refuge is made up of several habitat types: estuarine habitat consisting of open water, sea grass beds, mud flats and mangrove islands, and interior
freshwater habitats consisting of: open water ponds, spartina swales, and west Indian hardwood hammocks/ridges. Two brackish water impoundments totaling 800 acres are managed for mosquito control and are used extensively by waterfowl and wading birds.
The refuge has a large diversity of species. Approximately 238 bird species have been identified utilizing refuge habitats, as well as 51 species of
reptiles and amphibians and 32 species
Several threatened and endangered species benefit from the habitats described: eastern indigo snakes,
American alligators, American crocodiles, bald eagles, wood storks, peregrine falcons, west Indian manatees, and Atlantic loggerhead turtles. Other wildlife includes ospreys, raccoons, otters, brown pelicans and moorhens.
A five-mile drive provides access to the
estuarine-mangrove habitat. Tram tours are offered at least twice daily except Fridays, when the Wildlife Drive is closed. The "Ding" Darling refuge also offers a visitor center, 5 hiking trails, fresh & salt water fishing, canoe & kayak rentals, guided interpretive programs, a wildlife observation tower and wildlife photography. For rentals of canoes, kayaks, family pontoon boats, fishing equipment and bicycles, please contact the Tarpon Bay Explorers at 900 Tarpon Bay Rd.
Guided Tours available: Kayak and Canoe through Commodore Creek, Sunset Paddle, Sea Life and Nature Cruise, Breakfast and Evening Cruise, Touch Tank Exploration, Fishing Charters. And don't miss the fabulous gift shop. For reservations and information, please call (239) 472-5218.
Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is open every day except Friday. The entrance fee is $5 per automobile, or $1 per pedestrian/cyclist, and is payable via the honor system: You are asked to put
your money in a box near the entrance to the loop road. The Wildlife Drive opens daily beginning 1/2 hour after sunrise and closes 1/2 before sunset Sun-Thursday. The Visitor Center is open daily from 9-4 during summer months, and from 9-5 during the months of Nov-Apr. For reservations and information, please call (239) 472-0101.
Other sites to check out:
JN "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
1 Wildlife Drive
Sanibel, FL 33957
Phone: 239/472 1100
Fax: 239/472 4061