April 27 2009 by Claudia Kunkel
After posting my last blog about Lesser Known National Parks of the Midwest, I started thinking about other parks and refuges around the country that may not be as well known as they should be. Or, maybe that's part of their charm, lesser known, more intriguing. This particular park was brought to our attention by one of our You Must Be Trippin' readers so, we thought it would make a good spotlight.
J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located on a subtropical barrier island of Sanibel in the Gulf of Mexico. Sanibel is located 15 miles southwest of Ft. Myers, Florida. I knew that any park or refuge with a name like that must have a story behind it. I wasn't disappointed! I like to think that I've been environmentally conscious for quite a few years now, but Jay Norwood Darling was well ahead of the curve when it comes to being green. I discovered that Darling was a well-known nationally syndicated cartoonist working for the Des Moines Register and was honored with a Pulitzer Prize in 1924 and l942. As an avid hunter and fisherman, Darling was concerned about the loss of natural wildlife habitats and the extinction of many species. At Mr. Darling's urging, President Harry S. Truman signed an Executive Order creating the Sanibel Wildlife Refuge in 1945 which was renamed in 1967 to the J.N."Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
Today, the refuge consists of 6,400 acres of mangrove forest, seagrass beds, marshes as well as a large diversity of bird species, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a major attraction for tourists traveling to Ft. Myers and the Sanibel area. Avid birdwatchers are particularly drawn to this top birding area of the country where you can get a "birds-eye" view of spoonbills, snowy egrets, herons, just to name a few of the 238 bird species. If you're not into birding, you can always take a hike, rent a canoe or kayak or pick up a fishing pole for some spotted sea trout.
If you haven't planned your summer escape yet, check out the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge Calendar of Events for the all latest activities as well as the best times to observe the wildlife. The nearby Best Western Beach Resort in Ft. Myers makes a great place to escape after a long day of trekking around this spectacular undeveloped ecosystem.
If anyone has already checked out the "Ding" refuge, let me know what you thought.