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Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary, Merritt Island, Florida USA
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Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Al Vazquez
  • Date Submitted: 9/2000
  • Location: Merritt Island between Cocoa and Cocoa Beach FL
  • Class: Typically flat water marsh, channels, and lakes with wind driven waves on open areas
  • Distance Paddled: as long as you want
  • Water: brackish
  • Wildlife: Great Egret, Snowy Egret, a variety of ducks, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Pelican, Cormorant, Anhinga, Osprey, Roseate Spoonbill, Mullet, Tarpon (Birds are there year round but are especially abundant during the winter months)

Entry and Exit

  • Directions:
    • Exit Interstate 95 onto Route 520 east toward Cocoa and Cocoa Beach
    • Pass Cocoa and cross Indian River causeway to Merritt Island.
    • Get in the left lane when you see Merritt Square Mall on your right (south side)
    • Turn left (north) onto North Sykes Creek Parkway. (If you get to Sykes Creek on 520 you've gone too far.)
    • Get in the right lane to continue on North Sykes Creek Parkway through the stop light.
    • Just after you see the small fishing pier on the left over Sykes Creek and the road curves to the right, take a sharp left (north-west) onto Audubon Road which is the entrance to Ulumay.
    • Park on the left side of the road opposite the entrance to the sanctuary which is normally closed with a chain. (If you go too far, the road dead ends at the fishing pier.)
  • GPS: N 28 degrees 22.240 W 80 degrees 41.001 (actual)
  • Fee: none
  • Description: An unusual board ramp over a seawall is the canoe launch just inside the park entrance.
  • Parking: Park on the left side of the road opposite the sanctuary entrance, which is normally closed with a chain.
  • Facilities: Fishing pier, hiking and biking trails , observation tower about 1/4 mile down the trail

Click to Enlarge Enhanced Aerial Photo

What We Saw

Take a compass to help navigate the myriad of marsh channels and lakes. A GPS is also helpful to track back to the launch point.

Proceed to the left (west) from the launch along a dredged canal (see below) which quickly curves to the right (north). The bank on the left of this north-side canal is the hiking and biking trail along Sykes Creek boundary of the sanctuary. This canal eases access to the entire length of the sanctuary's numerous inner channels, lakes, and marshes to the east.

Note on the enlarged aerial photo at left that there are also a number of canals the run east to west into this channel as well.

You may find it useful to take along a printed copy of the enhanced aerial photo at left and trace your way as you paddle. You'll find it easier to find your favorite spots next time.

Where you paddle is up to you. The sanctuary itself is large, bordered on the north by Route 528, the west by Sykes Creek, and the east by the residential area of Merritt Island along the Banana River.

We paddled up to some of the larger lakes adjacent to the north-south canal and headed east into these lakes and marshes.

We saw a number of birds even on our late summer paddle as well as several Tarpon. And on this weekend paddle, we ran into only one other paddler.

During higher water, you won't need to stay in the channels. Most of the interior marsh becomes accessible to paddlers. Here is where you'll see most of the birds. Binoculars are a good idea for bird watching here as the birds are wary of even quiet paddlers.

The interior has a number of shallow lakes dotted with grass or mangrove islands like those at left.

Ulumay is a great wildlife paddle conveniently located within minutes of resort hotels and facilities.