The tangled masses of roots stemming from mangrove trees often intertwine to form islands, a haven for pelicans, herons, and egrets. The four small mangrove islands and two small mangrove points were given protected status by President Theodore Roosevelt when they became what is now known as Island Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The Island Bay Wilderness was established as one of the smallest units in the National Wilderness Preservation System. J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge now manages the refuge.
Several shell mounds pay tribute to the Native Americans who once called the area home. Illegal digging for artifacts has caused great harm to this critical bird habitat, a fragile ecology best viewed from a boat anchored at a respectful distance of at least 200 feet. Visitors may view wildlife or fish off shore, but may not access the wilderness.
Closed Wilderness Area
Ten of the National Wilderness Preservation System's 803 wilderness areas are closed to access and use by the general public. Most of these closed areas are managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The core mission of the Service's National Wildlife Refuge System is conservation of native fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats. The Island Bay Wilderness, part of the Island Bay National Wildlife Refuge, is closed to visitation to protect wildlife and other natural, cultural, and/or other resources consistent with the conservation purpose(s) of the refuge. Wilderness designation provides an additional level of protection for the wilderness portion of this refuge, but does not open the area to public access or use.
Island Bay Wilderness is located on the northern shore of Charlotte Harbor in southwestern Charlotte County, Florida.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.