What do the nation’s space program and a natural wildlife refuge on Florida’s Atlantic coast have in common? Let’s find out!
The John F. Kennedy Space Center was established in 1962 after NASA acquired 140,000 acres of land, water, and marshes adjacent to Cape Canaveral. NASA then built their launch complex and surrounding facilities known today as Kennedy Space Center.
However, much of the land was left undeveloped. In1963 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed an agreement to establish a national wildlife refuge in the unused portions of Kennedy Space Center, and in 1975 a second agreement established Canaveral National Seashore. Merritt Island Natural Wildlife Refuge is an unusual destination in which exploring the solar system and exploring ecosystems coexist.
Due to the diversity of habitats found here (including coastal dunes, saltwater marshes, pine flatwoods, and hardwood hammocks), the refuge located on Florida’s largest barrier island, is home to over 500 species of wildlife and more than 140 species of freshwater and saltwater fish. It is also a popular place for bird watching. 358 species have been identified here to date.
Your journey begins at the visitor information center located at 1987 Scrub Jay Way in Titusville. Here you will find exhibits, movies, water and restrooms. The refuge is also great for saltwater anglers and there are six hiking trails just waiting to be explored. In addition, Black Point Wildlife Drive is a 7-mile, self-guided automobile tour allowing for the opportunity to see birds, alligators and other local wildlife from the safety of your car.
There is a $10.00 daily fee per vehicle for entry into Black Point Wildlife drive and the boat ramps. Buses and vehicles over 29 feet and 2.5 tons are prohibited on Black Point Wildlife Drive. Visitors can pay entrance fees by cash or check at the Visitor Center between 8 am and 4 pm daily or with exact change at the self-pay stations when the Visitor Center is closed. Annual & Lifetime Permits are also available.
*Please note: NASA can restrict access to the refuge based on its operational needs/rocket launches. Refuge roads are closed one hour before scheduled launch times or when the Canaveral National Seashore beach parking lots are full