Programs, Tours and Events at Rookery Bay Reserve

Grab a Kayak and Paddle Rookery Bay’s “Shell Island Road Canoe and Paddle Trail”!

Did you know there is a marked kayaking paddle trail right in Rookery Bay Research Reserve? The “Shell Island Road Canoe and Paddle Trail” is located in the Reserve just off Collier Blvd. on the way to Marco Island.

In January 2020, a group of Rookery Bay Research Reserve volunteers led by Bob and Dorothy Wickline cleared brush and repainted markers for the 2 mile water trail. An information kiosk at the launch lagoon (called Cat’s Paw) provides a map for paddlers to preview their journey and take a photo with their cell phone as a guide. It is free to launch at Cat’s Paw lagoon, and it is an excellent place for novice kayakers to practice paddling. The trail itself is marked by 18 posts within the water and weaves through some of the most pristine mangrove forests in North America.

Paddlers enjoy everything from clear water open bays to secluded mangrove tunnels. Bird and marine life are also abundant along this beautiful paddle including manatee, dolphin, egrets, osprey and anhinga … just to name a few.

At the beginning of the paddle trail in Henderson Creek, paddlers will encounter a large post with devices attached to it. This is one of five System Wide Monitoring Program stations (SWMP) at Rookery Bay Reserve used to measure water conditions, nutrients, and chlorophyll. Data from these stations, along with data from the other 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves around the United States, is sent every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to a national database.

The data is analyzed, recorded and utilized by the Department of Environmental Protection and National Atmospheric Oceanic Administration (NOAA). If you need to rent kayaks, Rookery Bay’s exclusive partners Rising Tide Explorers can deliver directly to the mouth of the trail. To book a rental, visit

For Learning and Fun from Home Check Out Rookery Bay’s Virtual Family & Educational Activities Web Page

The Rookery Bay Family Activities web page is the place to go for all virtual family and education programs continuing to happen at Rookery Bay. It’s a great way to learn all about nature, wildlife and waters of Southwest Florida. The page is filled with interactive videos, presentations, tours and downloadable activities about everything from sea turtles and sharks to environmental conservation methods and water quality testing. Have some fun with your family and learn about the nature and wildlife Rookery Bay anytime at

December 2020 Events & Ecotours by Boat and Kayak

Rookery Bay Road Rally December 6 • 10:00 a.m. • $40 per vehicle Registration is required.

Grab your family and jump in your car for a joy ride with Rookery Bay’s Road Rally. Follow a route and directions to learn about Rookery Bay Research Reserve’s 100,000 acres. Participants will answer quiz show-style questions about the things they see along the way. At the end of the Rally at an exciting, undisclosed location, there will be gifts for all participants (and special prizes). The Road Rally is a fun way to get out into the Reserve and raise funds to help protect
it – all while social distancing!

Virtual Binoculars: Beach Birding with Biologists

December 19• 9 – 10:30 a.m.•$20 Registration is required.

Southwest Florida is a critical stopover site for thousands of  migrating and wintering shorebirds. In this virtual program, Adam DiNuovo of Audubon Florida and Collette Lauzau of Rookery Bay Research Reserve will discuss the life history of these birds and the incredible journeys many of them make annually. From the comfort of your computer, we will take you on a virtual tour of the amazing mudflats of Tigertail Beach. You will see what birds are out there in real time through a virtual spotting scope while viewing photos and receiving clues to help you identify these birds in the field. Each month the bird and their appearance will change, so we encourage you to join us for the entire series. No two sessions will ever be the same!

Soak Up Sunshine and Fresh Air with Rookery Bay’s Boat & Kayak Tours

Rookery Bay’s boat and kayak tours can get everyone out on the water to experience the Reserve’s hidden gems including Keewaydin Island and mangrove tunnels as well as enjoy watching the abundant wildlife at home in the warm estuary waters. Daily ecotours are led by local biologists and certified naturalists who share a passion for this part of the Western Everglades. Tours are conducted by Rookery Bay’s exclusive ecotour partner, Rising Tide Explorers.

With our kayak tours, guests paddle through beautiful mangrove tunnels, teeming mudflats and intricate oyster reefs while searching for amazing wildlife like sea stars, large snails, birds, dolphins and manatees! Our boat tours are small 6 passenger boats and offer a comfortable and informative ride. Guests can choose from different tours including a shelling trip to a deserted barrier island, a sunset tour, a backwater plants and wildlife trip, or an excursion to the highest point in Collier Country with a visit to an ancient sand dune.

To learn more visit or call 239-530-5972.

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