Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Merritt Island Wildlife Association
Merritt Island Wildlife Association
Merritt Island Wildlife Association

The refuge traces its beginnings to the development of the nation’s Space Program. In 1962, NASA acquired 140,000 acres of land, water, and marshes adjacent to Cape Canaveral to establish the John F. Kennedy Space Center. NASA built a launch complex and other space-related facilities, but development of most of the area was not necessary. In1963 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed an agreement to establish the refuge and in 1975 a second agreement established Canaveral National Seashore. Today, the Department of Interior manages most of the unused portions of the Kennedy Space Center as a National Wildlife Refuge and National Seashore.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 as an overlay of NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center for the protection of migratory birds.  Consisting of 140,000 acres, 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 and 15 federally listed species.

The refuge's coastal location, tropic-like climate, and wide variety of habitat types contribute to the refuge's diverse bird population. To date, 358 species have been identified on the refuge.

Endangered Species
The refuge manages habitat for over 500 species of wildlife. These habitats support one of the highest numbers of endangered and threatened species found within the National Wildlife Refuge system.

More than 140 species of freshwater and saltwater fish are known to use refuge impoundments, estuaries, and freshwater wetlands. Fish within the refuge are important to the ecology of the area and recreation.

The habits of the refuge include wetlands (both salt and fresh water), upland shrub land, wetland forest, mesic and upland forest, and beach and dune.

Invasive Species
Exotic, invasive, and nuisance plant and animal species is one of the priority management issues for the Merritt Island NWR. Nuisance animal species have a negative impact on threatened and endangered species

There are many species of mammals on the refuge. Some of the larger ones include bobcats, otters, manatees, and deer.

Adult alligators are apex predators critical to the biodiversity of habitats and wetland ecosystems and can be found in many areas of the Refuge.

The wildlife and habitat vision for national wildlife refuges stresses that wildlife come first; that ecosystems, biodiversity, and wilderness are vital concepts in refuge management.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge's primary goals are:

  • To provide habitat for migratory birds.
  • To provide habitat and protection for endangered and threatened species.
  • To provide habitat for natural wildlife diversity.
  • To provide opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, environmental education, and interpretation.
Merritt Island Wildlife Association
Merritt Island Wildlife Association
Merritt Island Wildlife Association


Refuge roads, trails and boat ramps are open from sunrise to sunset daily. Bairs Cove boat ramp is the only boat ramp open for night launching.

The Visitor Information Center is open 8am to 4pm daily November 1 through March 31. April 1 through October 31 the Visitor Center is open Monday through Saturday, 8am to 4pm. It is closed most federal holidays.


There is a $10.00 daily fee per vehicle for entry into Black Point Wildlife drive and the boat ramps. Yearly passes are available at the Visitor Information Center for $25. Cash or check only.

Visitors can pay entrance fees by cash or check at the Visitor Center between 8am and 4pm daily or with exact change at the self-pay stations when the Visitor Center is closed.

Annual & Lifetime Permits:
$25 Annual Refuge Pass
(valid only at Merritt Island NWR)
$25 Federal Duck Stamp
(valid at all National Wildlife Refuges)

$45 Canaveral National Seashore Annual Pass (Valid only at Canaveral NS and Merritt Island NWR)

$80 Interagency Annual Pass
$10 Interagency Senior Pass
(lifetime pass)

$0 Interagency Access Pass (lifetime pass)

Note: All daily, annual, and lifetime permits are available for purchase at the Visitor Center. When the Visitor Center is closed, use fee envelopes and depository provided at the entrance to Black Point Drive and boat ramps for daily passes.

Merritt Island Wildlife Association
Merritt Island Wildlife Association
Merritt Island Wildlife Association

Know Before You Go

  • Bird watching opportunities are good all year, but are best from October through April. Waterfowl are most abundant from November – February.
  • Alligators can even be seen in winter on warm, sunny days, but are most easily viewed when basking in the spring and fall. Alligators may be encountered on the wildlife drive or any of the trails; it is potentially dangerous (and a violation of state and federal law) to feed or harass this reptile in any way.
  • Mosquitoes and flies may be prevalent during spring and summer months; be sure to bring bug spray.
  • Overgrowth on trails and dikes may conceal snakes, poison ivy, or stinging insects.
  • There are no shelters for visitor protection from the sun or inclement weather, except at the visitor center.
  • Drinking water is only available at the visitor center.
  • Restrooms are located at the visitor center and at Stop 9 on Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Visit for more information.

Merritt Island NWR
PO Box 2683
Titusville, FL 32781
Phone: 321-861-5601