TEN THOUSAND ISLANDS NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
The Ten Thousand Islands is located in Collier County, Florida. The Wildlife Refuge was established in 1996 and encompasses approximately 35,000 acres. Two thirds of the region are covered in mangroves and collectively is one of the largest mangrove forests in North America. It is a nature lover and photographer’s paradise. The Ten Thousand Islands is home to roughly 200 species of fish and almost as many species of birds.
The Ten Thousand Islands has a rich history; it was occupied by Native Americans for over three thousand years. It was also a hideout in the late 1800’s for military deserters and other outlaws. It later became a drug trafficking point due to its isolation and geography.
I have had the good fortune to fly low and slow in an experimental airplane over the Islands. From the sky it looks like a jigsaw puzzle. I have spent countless days exploring the region in my little Gheenoe boat, this is one of my favorite places to go to get away from it all.
As a photographer, my favorite subjects include some of the old, weathered, lone mangroves of the region. They sometimes look like sea creatures that are guarding the islands. Navigating this maze of mangrove islands and shallow oyster beds is challenging; even with a GPS and compass, I still have gotten turned around.
Summer is my favorite time of year to photograph there when the clouds are at their most spectacular and look as though they are coming down to touch the sea. This is also the time of year when the mosquitoes and no-seeums are the most voracious. If you go, bring bug spray and plenty of sunscreen.
Many of these images were created with an 8x10 in wooden view camera and large format film. Photo © copyright by John Brady.