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The Historic Jungle Trail is an 8-mile sandy road on Orchid Island - a barrier island along the Indian River north of Vero Beach. The road, now on the National Registry of Historical Places, was built in the 1920's for citrus growers to move their produce. To the north, the trail starts off A1A at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge - America's first Wildlife Refuge (more below). To the south, it ends at A1A at Old Winter Beach Road. The well-maintained road goes through coastal hammock and is open to cars, but lightly used with few cross-streets or driveways. The hard-packed sand is fine for most bikes, with just a few soft spots. (Map link and photos below.)
Map link... Historic Jungle Trail
Location: Indian River County
End Points: A1A in Vero Beach (at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, and at Old Winter Beach Rd.)
Mileage: 8 miles
Surface: Hard-packed sand (a few soft spots)
Nearby points of interest: Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Sebastian Inlet State Park, Captain Forster Hammock Preserve, Jones Pier Conservation Area
The northern section starts at the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge Orientation Center. Leaving the Center, there may be more traffic for the first 1/2 mile, leading to the cut-off to the Pelican Island Viewing Area (some hike this section). Past the cut-off are fewer cars as the trail runs through a remote, natural area within the Refuge. After another 0.3 mile the road begins to parallel the Indian River, but the view mostly blocked by vegetation.
In the middle portion starting at Savannah Drive (a parallel road, not a cross street), the Refuge ends and development starts. The trail winds around a golf course past homes and gated communities, with less shade. There are road crossings at Orchid Island Drive and Wabasso Beach Road, but little traffic.
The southern end from Wabasso Beach Road runs along the Indian River with the best views of the water, also passing homes. Captain Forster Hammock Preserve conservation area is a good stopping point, with restrooms, walking trails, and parking. Jones Pier Historic Preservation and Conservation is another historic stop in this section, an old landing point for visitors and citrus. At trail end, a paved trail extension (0.7 mile) follows Old Winter Beach Road back to A1A. Parking is also available at Turtle Trail Beach, go 1/4 mile north on the A1A Trail and cross to beachside.
The Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge Orientation Center has parking, restrooms, and interpretative exhibits. The Bird's Impoundment Trail, a 3 mile loop, leaves from the Center. Along Historic Jungle Trail about 1/2 mile is a cut-off to the Pelican Island Viewing Area and then another 1/4 mile to the trailhead. Past here it's hiking only - no bikes or cars - with two hiking options: Centennial Trail about 4/10 mile (one-way) to the observation tower, or Joe Michael Memorial Trail, a 3 mile loop. There's also a butterfly garden.
Along Centennial Trail is a wildlife viewing deck, and then the Observation Tower with views of the Pelican Island Rookery. Planks along the ramp up to the tower list all National Wildlife Refuges since 1903.
The Refuge - now totaling more than 5,400 acres and home to 140 species of birds - was America’s first wildlife refuge, created in 1903 by order of President Theodore Roosevelt. In the 1800’s, birds were slaughtered for their feathers, the refuge along with laws prohibiting plume hunting were established through efforts of the Audubon Society. Visiting Pelican Island itself - a pelican rookery - is prohibited. As the first national wildlife refuge, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963.
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