As you read in a previous post, the Ten Thousand Islands is quite the mystical place, but let’s focus on one part of the islands that is particularly breathtaking: Rookery Bay.
Rookery Bay is located on the northern end of the Ten Thousands Islands on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It is a beloved area of Florida as 750,000 people visit it each year. This area is home to one of the last remaining undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America; the area around the Bay is called the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Reserve. Sitting on 110,000 acres, the Reserve is home to a world of mangrove forests, uplands, protected waters of Rookery Bay, 150 species of birds, and endangered and threatened animals.
The Reserve has a lot of biodiversity—wetlands, freshwater, land and marine wildlife– making it a significant part of the Everglades ecosystem. The mission of the Reserve is to provide a basis for informed stewardship of estuaries in Southwest Florida through research and education; the Reserve is managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Coastal Office in cooperation with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.
Fun Facts About the Rookery Bay Reserve
1. The area is comprised of 70,000 acres of surface area of open waters.
2. The other 40,000 acres in the Reserve are made up on mangroves, fresh and brackish water marshes, and upland habitats.
3. Rookery Bay’s surface area is 1,034 acres and a mean depth of 1 meter.
4. Since 1964, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised to purchase Rookery Bay properties and acres to preserve the area.
Exploring the Area
Rookery Bay may be a protected area by the Reserve, but isn’t off limits. There are many ways for people to enjoy and learn about the area, while taking in all the beautiful sights.
The Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Saturdays May to October. The center is a 16,500 square-foot facility with four research laboratories, classroom, a large auditorium, and a visitor center. The visitor center has a 2,300-gallon aquarium, interactive exhibits, gallery, store, and picnic area. Admission costs $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 6 to 12, and children under 6 are free. A guided 45-60-minute tour for up to 15 visitors of the facility costs $100. The Center also offers daily programs, lectures, special events, art classes and lesson, and workshops about the ecosystem of the Rookery Bay area. The building is located at 300 Tower Rd., Naples, Fl.
If you’d like a different type of tour, the Preserve offers boat and kayak tours. If you’d just like to explore on your own, you can go camping, hiking, fishing, walking on a nature trail, geocaching, and more.
Protecting Rookery Bay
The Friends of Rookery Bay was created in 1987 and is a volunteer support organization that helps the Reserve meet its goals, especially when state and federal funding decrease. On March 19th 2016, the 77th annual Batfish Bash fundraiser was held at the Center; the event raised funds to support the research, stewardship, and education efforts at the Reserve.
Experiencing Rookery Bay
Along with the many activities listed above, recreational fishing is a popular thing to do in the Bay. The Bay helps keep charter and guide services, boat sellers, fishing tackle and fuel companies in business with its rich marine life. Snook, mangrove snapper, redfish, tarpon, spotted sea trout, and sheepshead are recreational fish found in the area’s waters.
Captain Geoff of Chasin’ Tales Fishing Charters can lead you through the waters of Rookery Bay to the best fishing spots and amazing views. To schedule a nearshore and backwater fishing charter around this impressive extension of the Everglades’ ecosystem, contact Chasin’ Tales at 239-216-0378.