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Trip report: March 2012

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge... Paddling at Florida's Space Coast

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1963 as part of the development of Canaveral (John F. Kennedy) Space Center, provides important habitat to a wide variety of plants of animals. It also offers many recreational opportunities - bird and wildlife watching, a wildlife drive, manatee observation deck, fishing and hunting, boating and paddling. Paddling along the Indian River Lagoon at the Refuge provides an unparalleled view of natural habitat and wildlife including an occasional alligator or dolphin. (Detailed map and photos below).

paddle Merritt 
		    Island National Wildlife Refuge, kayak, canoe

Distance: varies
Location: Brevard County (Titusville).
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Tidal: Yes
Launch points: Along Shiloh Marsh Road, Bairs Cove,  Beacon 42, Dummitt Cove, Bio Lab Road (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Manatee Observation Deck, Kennedy Space Center, Canaveral National Seashore, Playalinda Beach

Rentals/Outfitters/Tours:

A Day Away Kayak Tours  (rentals/tours)

A1A Beach Rentals  (rentals)

BK Adventures  (rentals/tours)

Kayaks by Bo  (rentals)

Merritt Island... Comments and Photos

This is mostly shallow, open water in the upper Indian River Lagoon. Watch the weather; high winds can create difficult paddling conditions. Note: during waterfowl hunting season, canoeing and kayaking are not allowed in refuge impoundments (inside the dike) except by permit.

Areas to explore include Dummitts Cove and Eddy Creek. More paddling is available to the north and east at Canaveral National Seashore (see link below). In the summer months, bioluminescence is an interesting phenomenon and several outfitters offer tours. Marine life have developed the ability to use chemicals within their bodies to produce light, visible at night.


Paddling on the Indian River at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

There are several public access roads to launch onto the Indian River or Mosquito Lagoons, the best areas for paddling to avoid motorboats. Our favorite area to paddle is the Indian River, launching from Shiloh Marsh Road - a 12-mile unpaved road paralleling the river (closed during waterfowl hunting season, November 1-February 15, and from time-to-time for maintenance.)

Launch at Shiloh Marsh Road and Canals

On the Indian River


Wildlife

The Refuge provides a wide variety of habitats: coastal dunes, saltwater marshes, freshwater impoundments, scrub, pine flatwoods, and hardwood hammocks that provide habitat for more than 1,500 species of plants and animals, including 358 species of birds.

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