Myakka River, Trout Creek, Peace River, Shell Creek, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail
Lee County's population is mostly in coastal cities in its northern half overlooking three aquatic preserves, large barrier islands and numerous tiny islands. The Caloosahatchee River flows 70 miles from Lake Okeechobee to San Carlos Bay between Lee's two largest cities, Cape Coral and Fort Myers. The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail meanders 190 miles through Lee County's inland tributaries, mangrove and seagrass estuaries, and manatee and dolphin habitats.
Powder-white beaches are on the gulf sides of Lee's barrier islands, which are also known for shelling, snorkeling, hiking, tarpon fishing, paddling and wildlife. Mangroves and seagrasses fringe the barrier islands' bay sides.
Across Boca Grande Pass, Cayo Costa State Park covers most of Cayo Costa Island with nine miles of quiet gulf beaches and three other islands. It is great for primitive camping, off-road bicycling and tarpon fishing. To Cayo Costa's east is Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserve, lush with birds, manatees, dolphins, and expanses of mangroves and seagrasses.
Pine Island, the largest island on Florida's Gulf Coast, is fringed by mangroves and three aquatic preserves. The island sits between mainland Cape Coral and Sanibel Island. Randell Research Center is a research and education center at the Pineland archaeological and historical site, a Calusa Indian village for over 1,500 years. Enormous shell mounds still overlook the waters of Pine Island Sound. The center offers education outreach and the 3,700-foot Calusa Heritage Trail.
Captiva and Sanibel islands are connected by a toll bridge. These popular resorts boast miles of unspoiled beaches covered with shells, bike paths, restaurants, unique shops, cultural events and an 1884 lighthouse. The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary on Sanibel Island is part of the largest stand of mangroves in the country. The "Ding" Darling Complex encompasses the Caloosahatchee, Matlacha Pass, Pine Island and Island Bay national wildlife refuges that provide feeding, nesting and roosting areas for migratory birds.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.