Located nearly halfway along the one-way route of Black Point Wildlife Drive, the Allan Cruickshank Memorial Trail honors a nationally-renowned local ornithologist.
Cruickshank lived in Cocoa and was a National Audubon Society staff photographer as well as an author of birding books.
He advocated for protection of these sweeping wet landscapes as a National Wildlife Refuge when NASA began plans for Kennedy Space Center in 1962.
Most visitors only take a short walk out to the observation platform over the salt marsh and the observation tower above the impoundments.
However, walking the full loop, best done early in the day or on a cool winter’s day, will let you enjoy birding along a breezy shore of the Indian River Lagoon.
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Length: 4.8 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.678159, -80.771798
Fees: Included in Black Point Wildlife Drive, $10 per vehicle or $2 per bicycle
Restroom: Portable toilet at trailhead
Land manager: Merritt Island NWR
Open dawn to dusk. A National Parks Pass, Duck Stamp, or Federal Public Lands Pass covers your parking fee.
Bicycles are not permitted on the trail.
Pets aren’t a good idea because of the large number of alligators here. Watch small children carefully. Do not get within twenty feet of an alligator.
In addition to your hiking time, plan an hour minimum to drive around Black Point Wildlife Drive to access the trailhead.
From Interstate 95 exit 220, Titusville, follow SR 406 east for 8 miles to cross the Max Brewer Bridge and the causeway to Merritt Island. Stay left at the divide in the road to continue on CR 406. Watch for the well-marked entrance on the left. Drive 3.4 miles along the 7 mile dirt road to get to the trailhead.
Start your hike with a stop at the interpretive kiosk, then continue counterclockwise towards the salt marsh observation deck, a low platform not far from the parking area.
Beyond it, the trail follows a levee around several impoundment areas. It is the on-foot equivalent of Wildlife Drive, narrow and surrounded by water.
Listen for the sounds around you. An alligator splashes into the water from its lazy spot beneath a mangrove, causing peeps and squawks in the bushes.
A mullet propels its entire body into the air, landing back into the water with a great plop. A cabbage palm rustles in the wind. An osprey calls out with its distinctive cry.
At 0.8 mile is the first chance to sit and relax on a shaded bench. There are several along the trail. Expect to walk more slowly for the next four miles.
Past the instrumentation station, the trail grows rough. No longer a jeep track, it becomes uneven and hummocky, although the park staff keeps the grass trimmed.
White mangroves edge the trail on the right, providing a windbreak against the open waters. They part briefly at 1.4 miles for a sweeping view of the lagoon.
Tall clumps of big cordgrass grow along the levee’s edge. When the wind picks up, the waters of the impoundment area whip to waves.
A long, narrow mangrove island creates a canal between the levee and the lagoon. In summer, marsh mallow towers up to ten feet tall, waving its massive pink flowers in the breeze.
By Marker 3, you’re two miles in. After the trail curves around a small lagoon, another covered bench appears at 2.2 miles.
An opening in the mangroves provides a view of North Titusville. On the left, NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building comes into view in the distance.
In the impoundment, grassy islands give way to more substantial islands anchored by mangroves. Pass Marker 2. The levee veers in an arc towards Wildlife Drive.
Look into the water as you veer around the far corner. Tiny fish and seashells are visible against the white sand bottom. The lagoon itself is dark, stained with tannic acid.
Just before the next covered bench at 3.6 miles, a juniper grows along the water’s edge.
The levee zigzags for the next quarter mile as it returns to the beginning of the arc. Across the water, you can clearly see where you’ve been.
As the levee veers right, the marsh on the left resembles an open prairie, with tall cordgrass swaying on each island.
Past Marker 1, the observation platform near the trailhead is visible. A telephone pole provides a preferred perch for cormorants drying their wings.
The last stretch of the levee has open water on both sides. At 4.6 miles, you reach the broad, tall observation deck.
Climb up and survey the marsh. You’ve skirted the impoundment. The natural salt marsh lies east, beyond the levee.
Walking the last stretch close to the water, keep alert for alligators. Stop at the final overlook to see what birds are there. The kiosk is ahead, the end of the loop after 4.8 miles.
Learn more about Black Point Wildlife Drive and the Refuge
More to explore in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Delving deep into the hammocks of North Merritt Island, the Palm Hammock Trail treats you to a lush forest of mature saw palmettos under a dense canopy of live oaks on the way to an island of cabbage palms
The wildlife-rich interpretive Oak Hammock Trail at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge provides an easy introduction to the hammocks of the island
An easy walk for birding along Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Wild Birds Unlimited Trail is a short trail with observation platforms
See our photos from the Cruickshank Trail