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J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located on the subtropical barrier island of Sanibel in the Gulf of Mexico. The refuge is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States. It is world famous for its spectacular wading bird populations.

Getting There . . .
The refuge is located approximately 15 miles southwest of Fort Myers on Sanibel Island. Once on the island, turn right onto Periwinkle Drive. Proceed 3 miles to Palm Ridge Road (marked Captiva and Refuge) and bear right. Go through stop sign and continue 2 miles to refuge entrance on right.


Established in 1945 as the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge, the refuge was renamed in 1967 in honor of pioneer conservationist and political cartoonist Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling. "Ding" headed the U.S. Biological Survey (forerunner for the Fish and Wildlife Service) and is also credited as one of the key people in the development of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The refuge includes over 6,300 acres of habitat, with 2,825 acres designated as Wilderness, and 950 acres of submerged habitat in the Tarpon Bay Recreation Area. The refuge informs and educates over 800,000 visitors annually in its 12,000 square foot Environmental Education Center and four-mile long Wildlife Drive. The refuge is home to 238 bird species, 51 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 32 species of mammals native to southwest Florida.

The refuge consists of the following habitat types: estuarine habitat consisting of open water, seagrass beds, mud flats and mangrove islands; and interior freshwater habitats consisting of open water ponds, cordgrass marshes, and West Indian hardwood hammocks. Two brackish water impoundments totaling 850 acres managed for wading birds, fisheries and estuarine health.

Several federally threatened and endangered species benefit from the habitats described, including the eastern indigo snake, American alligator, American crocodile, bald eagle, wood stork, peregrine falcon, West Indian manatee and Atlantic loggerhead turtle. Some interesting state listed species of concern to the refuge are gopher tortoise, snowy plover, and the Sanibel rice rat.

J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
1 Wildlife Drive
Sanibel, FL 33957
Phone Number: 239-472-1100
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:

Information provided by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service