Great White Heron
National Wildlife Refuge
-- Established: 1938.
SAcres: 123,980 owned (1,900 are
designated Wilderness), 186,287
acres of marine waters managed
with the state of Florida.
Located in Monroe County, FL.
The uplands portion of
GWHNWR are all on
unpopulated islands, on the north
side of the lower Florida Keys
bordering the Gulf of Mexico, in
an area called "the Backcountry."
It stretches from north of
Marathon (90 miles SW of Miami)
to north of Key West, FL (130
miles SW of Miami).
Accessible only by boat.
Administered by National Key
Refuge includes mostly
mangrove islands and wetlands,
....... with a few sandy beaches and
dunes that are critical nesting
habitat for endangered
. m Refuge, along with the Key West
NWR, represents the last of the
off-shore (and raccoon free)
islands in the Lower Florida
-:*:. Keys available as critical i -I ii-.
r ,.,I Iri,,-. wading, and loafing
habitat for over 250 avian species
particularly wading birds.
m The area managed is
Overwhelmingly (96 percent)
marine environment including
large sand flats surrounding the
Anne Morkill, Project Leader islands that are used extensively
Great White Heron NWR by foraging wading birds,
(managed as a satellite of National significant seagrass meadows,
Key Deer Refuge) patch coral reefs, and coastal
c/o National Key Deer Refuge mangrove communities.
179 Key Deer Boulevard Financial Impact of Refuge
Big Pine Key Plaza m Refuge has no dedicated
Big Pine Key, FL 33043 personnel. It is managed as a
Phone: 305/872 2239 satellite of NKDR.
Fax: 305/872 3675
* Analyses of generated income for
the Florida Keys Refuges only
take into account the number of
people that visit the headquarters
on Big Pine Key a fraction of
the people that cross into the
boundaries of all four refuges.
Current estimate is: resident and
non-resident visitors generated
$2.1 million in expenditures in
* No quantitive data is available for
public use on the refuge. It is
estimated that 12,000 people use
the managed waters of the
GWHNWR each year.
* To manage as a refuge and
breeding ground for great white
herons, other migratory birds
and other wildlife.
* To manage as an inviolate
sanctuary, or other management
purpose, for migratory birds.
* Provide habitat and protection
for endangered and threatened
fish, wildlife, plants, and
* Protect the character of the
* Provide opportunities for
environmental education and
public viewing of refuge wildlife
* Mechanical and chemical control
of invasive exotic plants.
* Routine wildlife monitoring.
* Law enforcement.
Public Use Opportunities
* Wildlife observation.
* Environmental education.
Great White Hern INao [li [11 u ge
Calendar of Events
April: Volunteer Recognition
Ceremony, National Wildlife Week.
May: Migratory Bird Day.
October: National Wildlife Refuge
Week, refuge birthday.
Questions and Answers
Where is the GWHNWR?
The refuge consists of a 300 square
mile area of water and unpopulated
islands that lie on the north side of
the main chain of the Lower Florida
Keys, between Marathon and Key
West. Additional refuge lands are
found on the main chain of Lower
How do I get to the GWHNWR?
There are no bridges to the offshore
islands. Access to most of the refuge
is by boat only-personal, rental or
guided. The refuge's establishing
authority prohibits access to most
back country islands although some
refuge managed and state owned/
refuge managed islands are open for
public access during daylight hours.
Camping is not permitted on the
islands. Also, the refuge manages
lands on Upper Sugarloaf and Lower
Sugarloaf Keys and can be driven to.
Access onto the refuge lands is by
foot on old access roads.
What islands are open
for public use?
All of the refuge managed islands
within the GWHNWR are closed in
accordance with the Executive Order
that established it in 1938. There are
some state-owned lands that are
managed by the FWS where public
use is allowed during daylight hours.