To celebrate World Migratory Bird Day last month, we had the pleasure of joining the Friends of St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge to help lead a birding and nature walk on the island. Like many places along the Panhandle’s coast, this barrier island is an important stopover site for migratory birds to rest and refuel after their grueling journey across the Gulf of Mexico. The eBird list for the NWR boasts an impressive 214 species, including Gray-cheeked Thrush, Swallow-tailed Kite, Vermillion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and 21 species of wood warbler. While we were slightly too late in the season to see most migrants, one eagle-eyed attendee spotted a Masked Booby, an incredibly rare sighting for the area! In addition to the birds, the island is important for sea turtles and to red wolves reintroduced as part of the red wolf recovery program. While it is unlikely that you will see the wolves, we spotted tracks of adults and pups in the sand!
Apart from its rich biodiversity and natural beauty, the island also has a fascinating history. The land itself was built up over time from sediment carried down the Apalachicola river, as evidenced by the topography of dunes and swales as you traverse the paths. Archaeological evidence shows that the island has been inhabited since 240 A.D., and observant visitors may find pieces of pottery amongst the stones and shells on the shoreline. The island has been used for everything from logging to cattle grazing to hunting of imported big game animals such as zebras and elands. In 1968, St. Vincent was designated as a National Wildlife Refuge for this important island to be preserved in perpetuity.
Due to the impact of Hurricane Michael, there are no visitor facilities available on the island. Trails are not well marked. Please prepare by downloading or printing a map, and be sure to bring sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, and plenty of water. During seasonal hunts, the NWR is closed to other uses; please call ahead or check online for dates and more information.
St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge is only accessible by boat.
Boat Ramp: CR 30-B / Indian Pass Rd., Port St. Joe, 32456
Hours: Daily, sunrise to sunset