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Rookery Bay Reserve

Seven miles southeast of Naples, Florida lies the Rookery Bay Reserve, an area previously set aside for the purpose of preserving an undisturbed view of mangrove island communities. Mainland access to the Reserve is by way of Shell Island Road, an unpaved turnoff from the Isles of Capri Road (SR951), which runs from south Naples to Marco Island. Along Shell Island Road visitors will find the Briggs Nature Center, which includes a boardwalk trail and kayak rental. Rookery Bay lies near the top of the 10,000 Islands, a chain of islands running along the lower southwest coast of Florida.

The Reserve is owned by the Southwest Florida Conservancy but  managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which have offices, lab facilities and living quarters in the area. Nearby there is a publicly accessible Environmental Learning Center featuring many live displays and interactive exhibits. It explains much of the work being done by scientists and researchers at Rookery Bay Reserve.

Pubic facilities at Rookery Bay Reserve are limited and because it is an 11,000 acre mangrove estuarine system, most of the reserve lies in water. Primarily accessible only from the water, the mainland access point provides parking and a boat launch area at the end of Shell Island Road. Kayaks can be rented here and a few walking trails can be found along an old dredged lagoon where shells for the early roads in Naples were dug. The walking trails are fairly short but provide beautiful, peaceful views of wooded mangrove areas and the surrounding islands. For boaters and kayakers, this is a great entry point for fishing and exploring north of Marco Island.

Wildlife, particularly birds, frequent the area. One of the outlying islands is a night nesting area for several bird species and a rookery for Egrets and Herons. On our early morning drive into the reserve we were treated to a sighting of a Florida white-tailed deer running in the roadway. It was into the scrub much too quickly for a good picture, though. Down one of the trails we walked a curious red-shouldered hawk preceded us, continually flying from tree to tree, until we got too brazen and too close with the camera. Osprey, Brown Pelicans, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, Ducks and Woodpeckers as well as some smaller birds in the brush made themselves available to us for most of our morning visit.

As with all Florida wilderness locations, visitors should bring along a good insect repellant and sun protection for their adventures in Rookery Bay Reserve. While there are no picnic facilities, it might be a good idea to pack a sandwich and bring water for those expecting extended explorations.

 

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ARTICLES

 

Kayak launching docks at Rookery Bay Reserve

Kayak launching docks

 

Rookery Bay Reserve boat launch ramp

Rookery Bay Reserve boat ramp

Walking trails feature wooded  mangrove views

Wooded  mangrove views

 

Monument with time capsule chamber at Rookery Bay Preserve

Monument & time capsule chamber

 

View from the shore

View from the shore

 

Pristine waterways and islands in Rookery Bay Preserve

Pristine waterways and islands

 

Brown pelican at Rookery Bay Preserve

Brown pelican

 

Red-shouldered hawk at Rookery Bay Preserve

Red-shouldered hawk

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