Our Role on the Refuge
We are the Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge. However, Ten Thousand Islands NWR is a Refuge that is 'complexed' with Florida Panther NWR. This means that both Refuges are managed by the same staff and interns.
At this time, Ten Thousand Islands does not have a Friends group of their own. We have stepped up to fill this vacancy until one is established.
We assist with volunteer days, trail maintenance, and support some refuge activities, such as sea turtle monitoring. These projects are funded from the donations made at the 'iron ranger' at the Marsh Trail on Ten Thousand Islands. If you would like to make a donation specifically for the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, please specify on your donation here!
Boating or Birding?
Ten Thousand Islands NWR is an "open" Refuge, meaning that the entire Refuge is accessible to the public year-round. There are several great ways to experience all this Refuge has to offer!
The rich estuarine, mangrove and marsh habitats on this refuge attract hundreds of species of wildlife. During the summer, thousands of water birds roost on the coastal islands. Mangrove cuckoos and black-whiskered vireos can occasionally be heard from the mangroves as they mark their home territory on the Refuge. Wintering waterfowl forage in the northern marshes as bald eagles soar over the open water searching for a meal. Rare reptiles, like the beautiful diamondback terrapin, can also be spotted if you’re quiet.
The majority of the Refuge is accessible primarily by boat, but many sights and sounds can often be found along our hiking trail.
The Marsh Trail and Observation Tower provide easy public access and wildlife viewing to visitors of the Refuge. This 2.2 mile round trip trek follows the only access trail found on the Refuge. The first ¼ mile of the trail is paved, the rest being a wide gravel road. The two-story observation tower provides an excellent vantage point for wildlife photographers and includes benches and the first level is handicap accessible. In the morning, this is a great location to spot some beautiful wading birds. As the day warms, alligators can often be seen basking in the sun. The Marsh Trail parking lot is on US 41, 3 miles west of Port of the Islands, and 20 miles southeast of Naples.
Boating & Kayaking
The Refuge offers four canoe and kayak trails with launch sites located off of U.S. 41. The Refuge currently does not provide parking for trails 1, 3, and 4; Please use caution when accessing those areas along U.S. 41.
In the northern marsh, canoeing and kayaking are allowed, but visitors should check water levels beforehand because they vary greatly seasonally. Most areas for canoe and kayaks are best accessible from mid-summer to early winter.
When boating on the Refuge, be sure to follow all state guidelines and be vigilant for any Florida manatees. Follow all "No Wake" postings to protect this threatened species. Boating the barrier islands and the Gulf are accessible from two public boat ramps.
Camping is allowed only on the outer barrier islands of the Refuge for fishing and wildlife observation. Camping is permitted October-April. The Refuge is closed to camping May-September due to nesting shorebirds and sea turtles.
Information on hunting, fishing, and camping can be found on the Refuge website.
If you have any questions, please call the Refuge main office at 239-657-8001.