The northern portion of the 6,400-acre refuge is a mass of mangrove islands designated as J. N. "Ding" Darling Wilderness. Here, you can expect summer temperatures in the 90s and winter temperatures in the 70s. Humidity is almost always high, and afternoon rain showers are common in the summer.
Mosquitoes and no-see-ums can be abundant at times, especially in the summer. Other residents include alligators, raccoons, bobcats, river otters, and marsh rabbits. Creatures for whom the refuge was established include such migratory birds as ospreys, brown pelicans, moorhens, ducks, herons, egrets, anhingas, wood storks, and roseate spoonbills. Motorized boating is allowed in designated areas. Kayaking, canoeing, and sportfishing is allowed throughout the open water areas of the Wilderness. Public access is restricted in designated closed areas and bird rookeries.
Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, helped pioneer the conservation movement, serving as head of the U.S. Biological Survey (forerunner of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), creating the Federal Duck Stamp Program, starting the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Program, and providing strong support for the expansion and administration of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Today, more than half of the 12-mile subtropical barrier island called Sanibel Island has been protected and bears witness to the legacy of the conservation visionary J. N. "Ding" Darling, through the National Wildlife Refuge named in his honor and the private conservation foundation he inspired.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the J.N. "Ding" Darling Wilderness.
On the northern portion of Sanibel Island, the Wilderness is located just off Wildlife Drive and includes the lands and waters within the estuary.
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.
(No official title, designates Fish and Wildlife Service wildernesses) - Public law 94-557 (10/19/1976) To designate certain lands as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System and to provide designation for certain lands as Wilderness Study Areas
To, Access the J.N. Ding Darling Wilderness, you may launch a canoe/kayak (non-motorized boat) from Wildlife Drive or by motor boat coming from Pine Island Sound. The wilderness area includes a no motor zone for boats. All motors (including trolling motors) must be turned off and tilted out of the water. The waters are shallow and offer wonderful opportunities to fish or observe wildlife.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.