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Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Vero Beach

(4.3/5 based on 150+ reviews on the web)
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is a United States National Wildlife Refuge located just off the western coast of Orchid Island in the Indian River Lagoon east of Sebastian, Florida. The refuge consists of a 3acre island that includes an additional 2.5acre of surrounding water and is located off the east coast of Florida of the Indian River Lagoon. Established by an executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt on March 14, 1903, Pelican Island was the first national wildlife refuge in the United States. It was created to protect egrets and other birds from extinction through plume hunting.Early historyPelican Island’s bird populations were threatened because of increased American settlement around the area in the mid-19th century. Many of the exotic birds were killed for their feathers, used in the fashion industry. Plumes from the birds were used to adorn ladies' hats of the day and at the time were worth more than their weight in gold.Paul Kroegel, a German immigrant, moved to Florida in 1881 and lived on the west bank of Indian River Lagoon. He was fascinated with the pelicans on the island. Being able to see the island from his home, Paul would watch the pelicans and other water birds. He eventually took an interest in the island and its protection. However, there was not any state or federal law to help him so he took control of the situation himself. Kroegel sailed to the island to stand guard and protect the birds and the island.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor
  • We found the almost hidden "Jungle Trail" entrance using Waze. There is no admission fee to this very first land preserved by the federal government (1903 - Teddy Roosevelt). There are signs along the...  more »
  • If traveling in the area, you should sign up for the Wednesday morning tour of the Refuge. The guides are very informative and the amount of birds here is amazing. 
  • I have been wanting to stop here for years and finally did. If you love nature and hiking, this is the place for you. So cool to visit the very first National Wildlife Refuge in the country. Still wor...  more »
Google
  • You really have to be vigilant or you'll miss the wildlife. A great place to hike.
  • How can u rate an island. Well i
  • Saw lots of wildlife, great photo opportunities. Pleasant for the whole family, ranging in age from 8 to 61.