As you walk along the elevated walkway to the viewing deck for the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Sebastian, the scenery is breathtaking, but it’s difficult to look at anything but the walkway. The reason for this is that the planks that make up the walkway are engraved with the names of each wildlife refuge in America, with the name, location, and year designated. The NWR’s are listed by year, starting with the newest wildlife refuge, and ending near the viewing platform with the name of the oldest, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. In the 1800’s bird feathers were extremely valuable due to their use in the fashion industry, leading to the slaughter of many pelicans, as well as other types of Florida birds. Through the efforts of several conservationists, including a German immigrant named Paul Kroegel, who stood guard over the nesting habitat with a shotgun, Pelican Island was named by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 as the first federal bird reservation, which began the national wildlife refuge system. Today Pelican Island is a nesting ground for 16 different bird species, and can be viewed by boat, or from the platform at the end of the walkway off of State Road A1A, just minutes south of Sebastian Inlet State Park. So next time you’re heading to the Inlet for a day of beach fun, due yourself a favor and take a detour on the little dirt road back to the Pelican Island Viewing Area and Centennial Trail, and you’ll be glad you did!! Enjoy the photos!!

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