Throughout the winter season Black Point Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is a popular destination for migrating birds and birdwatchers. Cars creep along the dirt road that winds seven miles through vast wetlands and pine flatwoods. The road is a one-way dike road around shallow marsh impoundments with pull-outs for viewing birds and wildlife often seen at those spots.
One to two hours after sunrise in the early morning and one to two hours prior to sunset in the late afternoon are the best times to view birds and wildlife along the drive. Tips for viewing wildlife along the drive include:
- Use your vehicle for cover
- Don't approach wildlife or birds, it will only cause them to retreat out of sight
- Move slowly and quietly
- Respect right of way and allow others to pass if moving slower or stopped on the drive
- Don't feed the wildlife
- Keep pets leashed and quiet
Migrating waterfowl and birds winter at the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. They arrive as early as July and August and peak in populations in January and February. Many types of birds can be seen from the drive such as wading birds, ducks, raptors, songbirds, coots, gulls and terns.
Native wildlife that may be seen on the drive are the:
- River Otter
- Marsh Rabbit
- Cotton Rat Armadillo
- American Alligator
At stop number four, visitors may walk the 1/4-mile Wild Bird Hiking Trail to view wildlife from blinds and a viewing scope. The Cruickshank Trail and a rest area are located at stop number nine. There, visitors may use the restroom facilities and walk a short distance to the observation tower for an overview of the marsh or to the wheelchair accessible observation platform to look through a viewing scope for a close-up view of the marsh.
The Cruickshank Hiking Trail Loop, named after famous wildlife photographer, writer and naturalist Allan D. Cruickshank for his work in establishing the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, is a five-mile loop around an impounded marsh and offers many views of the marsh and river.
The drive takes approximately 40 minutes to complete and there is a day-use fee of $5.00 per vehicle. A self-guiding brochure and bird identification guides are available at the entrance. For more information about the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Black Point Wildlife Drive visit their website.