Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is an important U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 National Wildlife Refuge
National Wildlife Refuge
National Wildlife Refuge is a designation for certain protected areas of the United States managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the world's premiere system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife and plants...

 on the Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 coast of Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

. It is also a 'gateway site' for the Great Florida Birding Trail
Great Florida Birding Trail
The 2000 mile long Great Florida Birding Trail is a collection of more than 400 locations in the U.S. state of Florida...


Location and extent

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is located due east of Titusville
Titusville, Florida
Titusville is a city in Brevard County, Florida in the United States. It is the county seat of Brevard County. Nicknamed Space City, USA, Titusville is on the Indian River, west of Merritt Island and the Kennedy Space Center and south-southwest of the Canaveral National Seashore...

 on Merritt Island
Merritt Island, Florida
Merritt Island is a census-designated place in Brevard County, Florida, United States. It is located on the east coast of the state on the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2000 census, the population was 36,090. It is part of the Palm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area...

 in Brevard County, Florida
Brevard County, Florida
Brevard County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida, along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. As of 2007 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the population is 536,521, making it the 10th most populous county in the state. Influenced by the presence of the John F. Kennedy Space Center, Brevard...

, and occupies 570 square kilometres (140,849.9 acre). To the north, it borders on the Canaveral National Seashore
Canaveral National Seashore
The Canaveral National Seashore is a National Seashore located between New Smyrna Beach and Titusville, Florida, in Volusia County and Brevard County, United States. The park, located on a barrier island, is home to more than 1,000 plant species and 310 bird species. CANA occupies 58,000 acres ...

; to the south it borders on the Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center
The John F. Kennedy Space Center is the NASA installation that has been the launch site for every United States human space flight since 1968. Although such flights are currently on hiatus, KSC continues to manage and operate unmanned rocket launch facilities for America's civilian space program...

 (with which it also shares some history), which in turn abuts Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is an installation of the United States Air Force Space Command's 45th Space Wing, headquartered at nearby Patrick Air Force Base. Located on Cape Canaveral in the state of Florida, CCAFS is the primary launch head of America's Eastern Range with four launch pads...

. Mosquito Lagoon
Mosquito Lagoon
Mosquito Lagoon is located in the northern part of the Indian River Lagoon system and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. It extends from Ponce de León Inlet in Volusia County, Florida, to the north end of Merritt Island. It connects to the Indian River via the Haulover Canal. The Lagoon divides...

 and the Indian River
Indian River (Florida)
The Indian River is a waterway in Florida, a part of the Indian River Lagoon system which forms the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. It extends southward from the Ponce de Leon inlet in New Smyrna Beach, Florida [Volusia County] southward and across the "Haulover Canal" and along the western shore...

 run through the refuge. Since public access to all these areas is controlled in various ways, the refuge is part of a very substantial area of relatively undisturbed wildlife habitat.


The land occupied by the NWR was acquired by NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 in the early 1960s for the development of the Space Center and its non-operational purposes. Until that time there had been little development in the area because of the high number of salt marsh mosquito
Mosquitoes are members of a family of nematocerid flies: the Culicidae . The word Mosquito is from the Spanish and Portuguese for little fly...

es. Public access is normally permitted, and several state highway
State highway
State highway, state road or state route can refer to one of three related concepts, two of them related to a state or provincial government in a country that is divided into states or provinces :#A...

s run across the refuge; however, the public can be excluded if necessary for NASA's purposes (for example, this is currently done in the days before a space shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

 launch or landing).

Habitats and species

The refuge provides a range of habitats, from saltwater estuaries
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

 and freshwater impoundments and marshes, to dune
In physical geography, a dune is a hill of sand built by wind. Dunes occur in different forms and sizes, formed by interaction with the wind. Most kinds of dunes are longer on the windward side where the sand is pushed up the dune and have a shorter "slip face" in the lee of the wind...

s, hardwood
Hardwood is wood from angiosperm trees . It may also be used for those trees themselves: these are usually broad-leaved; in temperate and boreal latitudes they are mostly deciduous, but in tropics and subtropics mostly evergreen.Hardwood contrasts with softwood...

Hammock (ecology)
Hammocks are dense stands of hardwood trees that grow on natural rises of only a few inches higher than surrounding marshland that is otherwise too wet to support them. Hammocks are distinctive in that they are formed gradually over thousands of years rising in a wet area through the deposits of...

, and scrub. It is therefore rich in over 1000 species of plants, 117 species of fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

, 68 amphibians and reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

s, 330 bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s, and 31 mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

 species. Of these species, 21 are listed as endangered either by the state of Florida or by the US federal government. The following are some of the more important species using the refuge; most of them nest there:
  • Sea turtle
    Sea turtle
    Sea turtles are marine reptiles that inhabit all of the world's oceans except the Arctic.-Distribution:...

    s including
    • Loggerhead Sea Turtle
      Loggerhead Sea Turtle
      The loggerhead sea turtle , or loggerhead, is an oceanic turtle distributed throughout the world. It is a marine reptile, belonging to the family Cheloniidae. The average loggerhead measures around long when fully grown, although larger specimens of up to have been discovered...

    • Green turtle
  • American Alligator
    American Alligator
    The American alligator , sometimes referred to colloquially as a gator, is a reptile endemic only to the Southeastern United States. It is one of the two living species of alligator, in the genus Alligator, within the family Alligatoridae...

  • Osprey
    The Osprey , sometimes known as the sea hawk or fish eagle, is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey. It is a large raptor, reaching more than in length and across the wings...

  • Bald Eagle
    Bald Eagle
    The Bald Eagle is a bird of prey found in North America. It is the national bird and symbol of the United States of America. This sea eagle has two known sub-species and forms a species pair with the White-tailed Eagle...

  • Many species of waterfowl
    Waterfowl are certain wildfowl of the order Anseriformes, especially members of the family Anatidae, which includes ducks, geese, and swans....

     use the refuge as a wintering ground; Blue-winged Teal
    Blue-winged Teal
    The Blue-winged Teal is a small dabbling duck from North America.-Description:The Blue-winged Teal is long, with a wingspan of , and a weight of . The adult male has a greyish blue head with a white facial crescent, a light brown body with a white patch near the rear and a black tail. The adult...

     and Northern Shoveler
    Northern Shoveler
    The Northern Shoveler , Northern Shoveller in British English, sometimes known simply as the Shoveler, is a common and widespread duck. It breeds in northern areas of Europe and Asia and across most of North America, and is a rare vagrant to Australia...

     are resident in small numbers
  • Many species of shorebirds, some resident and some using the refuge in the course of their migration
    Bird migration
    Bird migration is the regular seasonal journey undertaken by many species of birds. Bird movements include those made in response to changes in food availability, habitat or weather. Sometimes, journeys are not termed "true migration" because they are irregular or in only one direction...

  • Several species of rails
  • Anhinga
    The Anhinga , sometimes called Snakebird, Darter, American Darter, or Water Turkey, is a water bird of the warmer parts of the Americas. The word "anhinga" comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird.It is a cormorant-like bird with an average body length of , a...

  • Several species of heron
    The herons are long-legged freshwater and coastal birds in the family Ardeidae. There are 64 recognised species in this family. Some are called "egrets" or "bitterns" instead of "heron"....

     and egret
    An egret is any of several herons, most of which are white or buff, and several of which develop fine plumes during the breeding season. Many egrets are members of the genera Egretta or Ardea which contain other species named as herons rather than egrets...

  • Glossy
    Glossy Ibis
    The Glossy Ibis is a wading bird in the ibis family Threskiornithidae.This is the most widespread ibis species, breeding in scattered sites in warm regions of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Atlantic and Caribbean region of the Americas...

     and White Ibis
    American White Ibis
    The American White Ibis is a species of wading bird in the ibis family Threskiornithidae. It occurs from the mid-Atlantic and Gulf coast of the United States south through most of the New World tropics...

  • Roseate Spoonbill
    Roseate Spoonbill
    The Roseate Spoonbill, Platalea ajaja, is a gregarious wading bird of the ibis and spoonbill family, Threskiornithidae...

  • Florida Scrub Jay
    Florida Scrub Jay
    The Florida Scrub-Jay is one of the species of scrub-jay native to North America. It is the only species of bird endemic to the U.S. state of Florida. Because of this, it is heavily sought by birders who travel from across the country to observe this unique species...

  • West Indian Manatee
    West Indian Manatee
    The West Indian Manatee is a manatee, and the largest surviving member of the aquatic mammal order Sirenia . The West Indian Manatee, Trichechus manatus, is a species distinct from the Amazonian Manatee, T. inunguis, and the West African Manatee, T. senegalensis...

  • Florida Panther
    Florida Panther
    The Florida panther is an endangered subspecies of cougar that lives in forests and swamps of southern Florida in the United States. Its current taxonomic status is unresolved, but recent genetic research alone does not alter the legal conservation status...

    , an endangered subspecies of Cougar
  • Dwarf Siren
    Dwarf Siren
    Dwarf sirens are eel-like salamanders of the genus Pseudobranchus. Dwarf sirens possess external gills throughout adulthood and lack hind legs. Dwarf sirens can be distinguished from members of the genus Siren in that dwarf sirens have three toes on each foot rather than four...

    , a recently discovered salamander
    Salamander is a common name of approximately 500 species of amphibians. They are typically characterized by a superficially lizard-like appearance, with their slender bodies, short noses, and long tails. All known fossils and extinct species fall under the order Caudata, while sometimes the extant...


Subject to the needs of NASA, public access is relatively unrestricted, though it is only allowed during daylight hours; camping
Camping is an outdoor recreational activity. The participants leave urban areas, their home region, or civilization and enjoy nature while spending one or several nights outdoors, usually at a campsite. Camping may involve the use of a tent, caravan, motorhome, cabin, a primitive structure, or no...

 is only allowed for certain organised youth organizations.

The refuge provides hiking
Hiking is an outdoor activity which consists of walking in natural environments, often in mountainous or other scenic terrain. People often hike on hiking trails. It is such a popular activity that there are numerous hiking organizations worldwide. The health benefits of different types of hiking...

 and driving trails for visitors, with excellent opportunities for observing wildlife without causing disturbance; most of the species listed above can be seen by a casual visitor. An observation deck is provided near the drawbridge
Bascule bridge
A bascule bridge is a moveable bridge with a counterweight that continuously balances the span, or "leaf," throughout the entire upward swing in providing clearance for boat traffic....

 that carries State Road 3
State Road 3 (Florida)
State Road 3, also known as North Courtenay Parkway, is a north–south road serving as the southern access for the Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida. The shortest of the one-digit Florida State Roads, its southern terminus is an intersection with SR 520 on Merritt Island, east...

 over the Haulover Canal, in the northern part of the refuge, since manatees frequently congregate there. Boating is permitted on the waters around and within the refuge, and provides another excellent opportunity for observing the wildlife; there are facilities for launching pleasure boats at several places. In addition the refuge includes, and gives access to the unspoilt Playalinda Beach
Playalinda Beach
Playalinda Beach is a beach located on Florida's east coast in Canaveral National Seashore. When translated from Spanish, Playa linda is "pretty beach". The beach is open to the public daily between 6:00 am to 6:00 pm in the winter and 6:00 am to 8:00 pm in the summer...

 on the outer barrier island. Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

 is generally permitted, and hunting
Hunting is the practice of pursuing any living thing, usually wildlife, for food, recreation, or trade. In present-day use, the term refers to lawful hunting, as distinguished from poaching, which is the killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species contrary to applicable law...

 for wildfowl is allowed on a strictly limited basis. There is a comprehensive Visitor Center.


Water levels are controlled in most of the refuge, to conserve its wide range of habitats. Controlled fires are used regularly.

Merritt Island acts as an administrative centre for a number of other NWRs in central Florida, which are operated as satellites from it, including:
  • Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge
    Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge
    The Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge is part of the United States National Wildlife Refuge System, located in four separated areas on the Lake Wales Ridge east of US 27 between Davenport and Sebring Florida. The 1,194 acre refuge was established in 1990, to protect a host of plants and...

  • Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
    Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
    Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is a United States National Wildlife Refuge located just off the western coast of Orchid Island in the Indian River Lagoon east of Sebastian, Florida. The refuge consists of a island that includes an additional of surrounding water and is located off the...

  • St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge
    St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge
    The St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge is part of the United States National Wildlife Refuge System, located off SR 50 just west of Titusville. The 6,255 acre refuge was established in 1971 to protect the now extinct Dusky Seaside Sparrow, Ammodramus maritimus nigrescens. It is administered as...

  • Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge
    Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge
    The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is part of the United States National Wildlife Refuge System, located along a twenty mile section of coastline from Melbourne Beach to Wabasso Beach, Florida along Florida State Road A1A. The 900 acre refuge was established in 1991, to protect the...

  • Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge
    Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge
    The Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge is part of the United States National Wildlife Refuge System, located in north central Florida, twenty-five miles west of Daytona Beach, off U.S. Highway 17 in DeLeon Springs....

Kennedy Parkway

Kennedy Parkway traverses through the John F. Kennedy Space Center and the refuge. In the John F. Kennedy Space Center, it is 12.21 miles long with a divided highway
Divided Highway
Divided Highway is a compilation album by American rock band The Doobie Brothers, released in 2003. . All tracks are taken from the albums Cycles and Brotherhood .-Track listing:...

. North of Beach Road, it is two lanes wide. In total, it is 28.36 miles long, from the southern border of the Space Center to U.S. 1
U.S. Route 1 in Florida
U.S. Route 1 in Florida runs along the state's east coast from Key West to its crossing of the St. Marys River into Georgia north of Boulogne, and south of Folkston. US 1 was designated through Florida when the U.S. Highway System was established in 1926.US 1 runs in the state of Florida, and...

, near Oak Hill
Oak Hill, Florida
Oak Hill is a city in Volusia County, Florida, United States. The population was 1,378 at the 2000 census. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 1,454.-History:...

. North of Dummit Grove, it forms the western boundary of the Canaveral National Seashore.

External links

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