The 10,000 Islands is a 35,000 acre National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) that protects over 200 species of birds and fish in this maze of mangroves. The estuary is where salt and fresh water mix and is a vital part of Florida’s ecosystem rich in plant and animal life. Take a stroll down the one mile linear birding trail for views of large wading birds, birds of prey, and Neotropical migratory birds. The trail begins with a boardwalk over the grassy marshlands and spits you out onto a shell rock forest road. Take in the scenery on both sides of the trail as you head south. There is water on both sides with plenty of mangroves for the birds to hide. After 1/3 of a mile there is an observation tower overlooking the vast marshlands for birding and wildlife viewing. The view of the adjoining sapphire pond from the tower amazingly resembles the view of the earth from space. Watch for large wading birds foraging in the ponds as an Osprey circles above the marsh searching for prey. Continue down the trail taking care to be observant on both sides. A small alligator lurks in the eastern waters. A little blue heron comes in for a landing in the grassy marshland while a dark crowned night heron patiently sits atop a mangrove bush. As the trail comes to an end, a flock of white ibis gather in the shallow puddles that end the trail. Listen for migrating birds hiding low in the mangroves on the return trip to the boardwalk. Climb the tower one more time to take in the glowing orange sun as it sets in the distance over the brackish marshlands.
The 10,000 Island NWR also has 3 canoe trails that can be accessed off US 41. Endangered wildlife that has been spotted in the refuge includes manatees, peregrine falcon, snail kites, and logger head turtles. It is also a vital place for Spoonbills, wood storks, bottle nose dolphin, otters and many other species.
Hours:Sunrise to sunset, 365 days
Directions: On US 41 between Naples and SR 29, west of the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk
Facilities: No Facilities
Part 1 of 3 – Family Friendly Everglades hikes: Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk
Part 2 of 2 – Family Friendly Everglades hikes: Kirby Storter Boardwalk