Eco-biking... Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1963 as part of the development of Canaveral (John F. Kennedy) Space Center, consists of 140,000 acres including coastal dunes, marshes, scrub, pine flatwoods, and hardwood hammocks that provide habitat for more than 1,500 species of plants and animals. Bicycling on the dikes in the Refuge provide spectacular views of unspoiled natural habitat and birds roosting here provide a colorful array. You can also see an occasional alligator.
The roads are unpaved and storms over the past few years have closed down some of the dikes, but the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a top eco-biking destination due to its unique character and beauty. Access to some areas is closed off during the days before space launches. Fishing within the Refuge requires a Refuge Fishing Permit. (More photos and map below.)
THE BEST TRAIL SECTIONS TO RIDE... and additional comments by MUDFISH
This is fat-tire biking along hard-packed dirt roads in one of America's premier bird-watching areas. Several sections are worthwhile nature rides. I've graded the rides from "A" to "D."
Wildlife Drive, 7 miles: C weekdays, D weekends. This is a popular, one-way drive with a low speed-limit. While smoother than others rides, the cars can be a distraction.
Shiloh Marsh Road, 11 miles: A-B. With several entrances (only 2 by car) this road can be biked in sections. Weaving north and south, you always have water on both sides. Lots of birds. Great sunsets. Some fishermen, but overall, very few cars. Closed to motor vehicles November 1-February 15 to avoid disturbing winter waterfowl.
Gator Creek, 6 miles: B. This trail runs south of SR 406, looping east-west from shortly after the causeway to just east of the Refuge Visitor's Center. Parts can be rutty and bumpy, but plenty of birds and alligators make for interesting views. This section is sometimes closed to cars.
Biolab Road, 5.5 miles. A-B weekdays - C weekends. Relatively straight north-south road from the Biolab Rd. boat launch to SR 406. The middle section is usually great for viewing alligators, but not as many birds as the other trails. The road bed tends to be smoother than Gator Creek or Shiloh Roads, which makes for a more comfortable ride, but there are more cars on weekends.
BOBCAT'S PHOTO GALLERY at Merritt Island Nat'l Wildlife Refuge (hover over photo for a larger view)
Black Point Wildlife Drive is one of the premier birding areas in the world and draws many visitors in the winter with 330 varieties of bird counted. Most drive the 7-mile road (15 mph), which is also an easy bike ride on hard-packed dirt and provides a "birds-eye" view of the abundant wildlife. An observation tower is midway along the trail and offers a view of the marshes. Access the Cruikshank Trail (hiking trail) at the tower. Because of the number of cars on weekends, it's best to bike this trail during the week.
Bio Lab Road - from here you can also see the launch pads at Kennedy Space Center and the vehicle assembly building. The 5.5-mile road on hard-packed dirt runs between the Mosquito Lagoon and a marsh impoundment where gators are often seen.
Shiloh Marsh Road is a 11-mile road off SR 3 that follows the shoreline of the Indian River Lagoon, there are no facilities. The road is closed to traffic during waterfowl season (Nov. 1 - March 15) but open to foot traffic and biking for fishing and wildlife viewing.
The road was damaged by storms, but repairs have been made and the road is bike-able. Wildlife and bird viewing abounds. Riding one day we were dazzled by a flock of roseate spoonbills.
L-Pond Road is a 6-mile road along dikes between Wildlife Drive and SR 406 at Dummitt Cove. The road has been closed to vehicle traffic, so it's now overgrown (04/2010) and mostly impassable by bike. In the past, this dike road made for outstanding biking, so we include this in memory of a former favorite ride! Hopefully, it will re-open again; we'll keep you posted.
With L-Pond Road not rideable, we explored other dikes and found the network of roads at Gator Creek (and connecting Catfish Creek Loop Road and Peacock Pocket Road), south of SR 406. One section was closed to traffic. While rough in spots, we saw more birds and gators than anywhere else this day!
Also visit us here: Paddling at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
More information on the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge (opens in a new window):
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge - Top Florida Nature Biking for Outdoor Recreation.
Our Top 10 FL Biking