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The Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge has the distinguished honor of being the first federally managed wildlife refuge — signed in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Such forethought is evident now in the vast array of birds that thrive here — saved from be hunted for their plumes. A stroll along the Centennial Trail not only delights with serene yet thrilling views of the wetlands and wildlife, but explores the history of the U.S. Wildlife Refuge system with the names of 540 refuges (as of 2003) engraved into the boardwalk that spans a tidal mangrove habitat. The trail culminates with extraordinary views from the 18-foot high observation tower. Get your binoculars ready to spot brown pelican, green-backed heron, osprey, or endangered species such as wood storks, Hawksbill sea turtles and threatened species such as Eastern indigo snake and piping plover. Viewing by boat is one of the best ways to explore the refuge. Spot a pod of dolphins, watch osprey swoop down for lunch or photograph an American alligator sunning along the banks. There are pontoon tours and kayak and canoe rentals from outfitters in Vero Beach, Fort Pierce or Sebastian. During peak season its best to make reservations in advance.
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