A book I've been reading about the beginnings of the national park system and wildlife refuges mentioned Pelican Island so I thought I would look it up. The preserve is located on one of the fringe pieces of land that skirts the east coast of Florida and is just north of Vero Beach. It has quite a history and is noted as the first federal bird reservation that Teddy Roosevelt established with the encouragement of the Florida Audubon Society. That was in 1903 and was the beginning of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
But Pelican Island was discovered at a much earlier time. Back in the mid 1800s scientists had already begun to study and wonder at the clusters of Pelicans in this five acre piece of land. By the end of the century, the Audubon Society was gaining members and influence and noted the importance of this area thus bringing it to the attention of Roosevelt.
Once Pelican Island was named as a refuge, a man named Paul Kroegel was hired by the Audubon Society to be the island's first warden. He would maintain the protection of the island habitat until 1926 when he retired.
In 1963 it became a National Historic Landmark because of its significance as the first national refuge and in 1968 Florida agreed to lease another 4670 acres of mangrove islands to the refuge. Since then many improvements have been made including trails and interpretive centers as well as observation points to study the rookery. You can also kayak among the mangroves.
We are always looking for new places to stop on our migration south. Guess I'll put this one on the list for next year.