Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge by Cyndi Sims Parr

This large tract in Florida became a national wildlife refuge in 1963 with the creation of the Kennedy Space Center. Allan Cruikshank, a renowned naturalist, realized that the buffer required for the new NASA facility was prime habitat for shorebirds and other species, and was instrumental in its establishment as a refuge.

According to the official website (, the refuge’s “wide variety of habitats: coastal dunes, saltwater estuaries and marshes, freshwater impoundments, scrub, pine flatwoods, and hardwood hammocks provide habitat for more than 1,500 species of plants and animals.

The landscape here, from the observation tower near the Cruikshank trail, may look simple and natural, but there is extensive water management. I’ve caught it just as the sun is hitting that “golden hour” before sunset, so it is especially colorful. We visited on a day that a shuttle launch was scrubbed.

(Photo by Cyndi Sims Parr)