North Brevard Florida Business & Community Directory -
Osprey launching.           Out There! eMagazine
Real stories by real people
about their outdoor adventures in the Titusville Florida area.

Ecotourism on Florida's Space Coast

Kayaking Adventures at
Historic Haulover Canal and the Rookery Island

on the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

by Laurilee Thompson of Dixie Crossroads Restaurant

Haulover Canal bridge The original Haulover Canal was located about a mile south of its present location and was used by Native Americans and the early settlers of the area. At times, logs were cut and laid across portions of this shallow passage and mule teams were used to help haul the boats through, hence the name Haulover Canal.

Work on the present site began in the late 1800's because of its better approach and was dug by hand. In the 1920's, because of increased traffic, due mainly to logging and citrus, steamshovels were employed to widen and deepen the canal. In the 1950's, the Army Corps of Engineers used dynamite to blast through the coquina rock layer, which had hindered deepening the canal in earlier years. This action brought the canal to its present condition and incorporation into the Intercoastal Waterway System.

The deep waters of the canal provide shelter for manatees, and they can frequently be found there during warm weather months. Dolphins also use this passage to move between Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River Lagoon. Sometimes they can be seen frolicking in the shallow waters near the canal's approaches. Wading birds perch on rocks and in the trees that line the canal and flocks of brown pelicans fly in formation overhead. The air rings with the cries of hunting ospreys as they wheel and dive, then streak for a snag to eat the fish clutched tightly in their talons.

Large group in an outer canal.
Skags along the bank Osprey launching into flight.
Large group in an outer canal. Little Blue Herron
Osprey on top of a pine tree Kayaking among the driftwood

Rookery Island from the southwest In spring and early summer a large rookery island and surrounding grass flats provide an excellent opportunity to view wading birds as they build their nests, feed their babies and eventually bring their young out onto the grass flats to teach them how to hunt for food. It is possible to see roseate spoonbills teaching their offspring how to swing their bills through the water, gleaning shrimp and crustaceans from the grass.

Another unforgettable sight is that of a parent reddish egret teaching an awkward youngster the art of canopy feeding (holding wings outspread to provide shade, which attracts minnows into striking distance). Other birds nesting on the island include great blue herons, tricolored herons, black crowned night herons, little blue herons, great egrets, snowy egrets, white ibis, and hundreds of pelicans and cormorants.

The spectacle of thousands of birds flying over the river to return to this island at sunset is awe inspiring! Even after nesting season is over, many birds remain near the island.

Relaxing with binoculars.
Two ducks. Rookery Island from the west
Birds skimming the water Birds on a sandbar

Two manatees

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