Location and extent
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is located due east of Titusville on Merritt Island, a peninsula in Brevard County, Florida, and occupies 570 square kilometres (140,000 acres). To the north, it borders on the Canaveral National Seashore; to the south it borders on the Kennedy Space Center (with which it also shares some history), which in turn abuts Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River run through the refuge. Since public access to all these areas is controlled in various ways, the refuge is part of a very substantial area of relatively undisturbed wildlife habitat.
The land occupied by the NWR was acquired by NASA in the early 1960s for the development of the Space Center and its non-operational purposes. Until that time there had been little development in the area because of the high number of salt marsh mosquitoes. Public access is normally permitted, and several state highways run across the refuge; however, the public can be excluded if necessary for NASA's purposes (for example, this is currently done in the days before a space shuttle launch or landing).
Habitats and species
The refuge provides a range of habitats, from saltwater estuaries and freshwater impoundments and marshes, to dunes, hardwood hammocks, and scrub. It is therefore rich in over 1000 species of plants, 117 species of fish, 68 amphibians and reptiles, 330 birds, and 31 mammal species. Of these species, 21 are listed as endangered either by the state of Florida or by the US federal government.
At the Haulover Canal we stopped to look for Manatee which we did NOT see but we did see a dolphin playing by the boat launch.