Located along Wildlife Drive in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the Wulfert Keys Trail is a short walk along a canal to the edge of Hardworking Bay, named for the difficult work of the fisherman there who set their traps by hand in this bay off San Carlos Bay for crabbing. One of the northernmost places where an American crocodile has been sighted, it’s an interesting spot for wildlife watching.
Location: Sanibel Island
Length: 0.5 mile
Lat-Long: 26.474729, -82.148979
Fees/Permits: Entrance fee of $5 vehicle, $1 cyclist/pedestrian
Bug Factor: moderate to annoying
This hike must be accessed via Wildlife Drive, which is a one-way driving trail through the refuge. The refuge is open from sunrise to sunset daily except Fridays.
Cross the causeway to Sanibel Island (toll) and, at the T intersection, turn right on Periwinkle Rd. Turn right on Periwinkle Rd and follow the “Captiva” signs through Sanibel to Sanibel-Captiva Rd. Drive 5.1 miles to the park entrance on the right. Follow Wildlife Drive through the refuge. The Wulfert Keys trailhead is on the right where the power lines cross.
Cross the bridge over a mangrove-lined canal, following the broad service road. Snowy egrets are everywhere: skimming low over the canal, flying high over the trees. You hear a plop as a large reptile drops into the water—perhaps the resident crocodile often seen along this trail. A belted kingfisher swoops low over the tannic water.
After a quarter mile, the trail ends at the water with a sweeping view of the Wulfert Keys, an important set of islands serving as rookeries for herons, egrets, and roseate spoonbills in the spring. Look closely at the prop roots of the red mangroves nearest the sound—they’re covered in clinging oysters. Despite the seeming challenge, snowy egrets have no problem navigating their flights in and out of the labyrinth of mangrove limbs. After enjoying the view, turn around and return to the parking area, completing the 0.5-mile walk.