Sunday, April 09, 2006

America's Very First National Wildlife Refuge

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
I live in Brevard County, Florida. Kennedy Space Center is at the northern end of this seventy-something mile long county. Palm Bay (where I live) is very close to the southern end, on the mainland of Florida. Stretching the whole length of this county is a series of barrier islands. Around here we call this series of islands 'beachside.'

When my wife and I go for a drive (my daughters no longer like to go) we go across the Melbourne Causeway to the beachside and tend to drive south on our section of the infamous A1A.

A couple of years ago we went south as usual and entered Indian River County just south of Brevard County. It's where Vero Beach, Florida is.

We were just driving and talking and enjoying the day, when on the right side of A1A we noticed a small sign about a 'Pelican Island.' On a whim we turned right down a gravel road. The road was like a washboard at the time so we had to go slow. On the left of this gravel road, we soon saw what looked like a park. We turned in. It was nice and landscaped and had restrooms, but nothing about Pelican Island. We headed further down the gravel road until we finally saw a sign for parking for Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.

We turned into the parking area which, like the one a couple of miles back was almost new and very nice. We were the ONLY people there. We parked and got out of the car and headed down the paved pathway to a small covered area that contained boards with glassed in posters and information about the place.

It turns out that Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1903 by Teddy Roosevelt as the nation's first ever National Wildlife Refuge. We were like, hey, that's really cool. We had lived near here for 6 years at the time and had never heard of it. Never read about it or anything.

Pelican Island is a small island, I can't remember exaclty, maybe about an acre or so in the Indian River Lagoon which is what the local portion of the Intracostal Waterway is called. The whole refuge though, is about 5400 acres. We were out on the beachside, but on the Intracostal Waterway side of this barrier island. From the park you walk up a meandering pathway that becomes a wooden walkway above the increasingly wet edge of the island.

You don't actually get to set foot on Pelican Island. This park is adjacent to it and the walkway from the park leads you up higher and higher until you end up at a covered viewing platform maybe forty feet off the ground. Looking out into the Indian River Lagoon you can view Pelican Island and all the birds that call it home. Depending on when you go, it might be white with birds. And at this viewing platform they have installed several of those mounted binocular thingies so you can get a good close-up view of the island and all the birds. It's really, really cool and the whole park is really well done.

It's a low key, laid back kind of place, conducive to walking on the pathways and just almost forces you to look at the beauty of this wetland area. Yeah, it's not majestic like a mountain vista or anything but the smells, sounds, and rough landscape has a beauty all its own.

And it seemed to me at the time that this wondrous place deserved a much bigger sign on the road, but I noticed they had an official roadside sign on A1A last time we went. But still, you have to go to the park to find out it's history and even the new sign is low key and simply states 'Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.'

Definitely one of our best finds in all the excursions we've taken in the years we have lived here. A very pleasant accidental find.

I had some great digital photos I had taken here, but I lost them in a computer crash before I had backed them up. (frown) I got the above photos from the internet.

You can read more about this amazing place HERE.

Wuh-Hooo! Lovely Wife found our pics of Pelican Island!
Click on 'em

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