De Witt Island



De Witt Island


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De Witt Island is located in the Intracoastal Waterway, east of the mouth of the St. Johns River. The island is privately owned and is home to the St. Johns Audubon Society’s headquarters and Sanctuary. The sanctuary comprises 217 acres of salt marsh and upland forests along the Gulf Stream. The island is open to the public for a nominal fee, and provides habitat for a wide variety of birds, including egrets, herons, ibises, spoonbills, pelicans, and cormorants.

De Witt Island


The island was first charted by a Spanish expedition in 1565 and named San Esteban. It was renamed De Witt Island in 1811, for Governor of New York John Roy DeWitt. In 1935 the Audubon Society of Florida purchased it as a bird sanctuary. It opened in 1956, and at that time its general purpose was to provide an area for birds away from what then were considered too numerous areas of human development along the east coast. The Audubon Society currently employs 24 full-time staff members and board of directors, who oversee the management structure of the Sanctuary.

In 2009, Hurricane Fay resulted in damage to much of De Witt Island’s vegetation. Fresh water runoff from local wetlands damaged adjacent woods debris flows into other areas creating erosion problems along southeast St Johns river estuary shoreline. The land is mostly protected with technology free agriculture farming practices but no long term natural prevention plans can be reflected in the land use patterns of endangered wildlife.


Climate is humid subtropical, with a hot and humid summer season and mild to cool winters. Many species of migratory birds winter on the island. Snarks & Mussel shells are the only 2 animals widely available on this island, but there are regular sightings of wild Boar. Iguanas can be occasionally seen in some areas while rarely crossing roads or walking paths near populated houses. The Sanctuary contains one open road which is shared with small tame ocelots (which have been fed).


A restroom, picnic areas and a museum are among the facilities on the island. The museum is a small shop containing bird skins, bones and inscriptions. Layers of tree bark can be seen outside around the island’s perimeter – they are used to repel insects (and certain snakes).

The Audubon Sanctuary here was significantly damaged by Hurricane Charley in August 2004. A temporary tar walkway along with “hurricane fencing” round about has been erected for visitors until new rock stairways have surfaced out of the marsh surrounding this island, with plans to asphalted road and new walking path (with interpretive signage).


During the early 1990s, DeWitt Island was designated as an urban wilderness by then-Mayor Sue Martin and the Miami-Dade County Commission. The designation halted all development on the island, although a small general store/cafeteria still operated on it until 2003. It also prohibited hunting, fishing and camping except in designated areas.

In November 2004, after several years of negotiation with Mayor Manny Diaz (of Miami), DeWitt Island became under the protection of The Audubon Society (now called Island Conservation Association) and is now managed as a nature preserve with more limited commercial concessions.

Government services

The closest airport is Miami International Airport, about away. The Sanctuary is accessible only by private boat or via land bridge. An intermodal transportation system exists between a marina and the Airport, also utilizing steamboat service to some beaches in Miami Beach, as well as free Amtrak passenger rail travel among several American cities located along the eastern seaboard; access via private motor vehicle or public bus is permitted only within certain parts provided by The Audubon Society’s concessions (for those willing to pay something).


As of 2003, the island was home to a small general store/cafeteria operated by local resident Tom Mottola. The Audubon Society’s concessionaires offer kayaking tours (among other activities), as well as overnight camping trips on the undeveloped east coast of the island.

A former commercial fishing ship attaches to the island by a dock in about 1993. Sailors are not permitted on land, save for certain pre-approved tours and guided tours of the interior according to a permit system also maintained by The Audubon Society’s concessions.


The only means of transportation between the sanctuary and Miami is by private boat or via a land bridge. The Audubon Society has also operated free Amtrak passenger rail travel among several American cities located along the eastern seaboard, as well as certain pre-approved tours for visitors to access restricted areas on the island. The United States Coast Guard maintains a small air and sea search and rescue station on Península.



There is no regular commercial food service on the island. Visitors are permitted to bring their own food and drinks, although alcoholic beverages are not generally available on the island. Some local residents have begun to sell fresh produce and groceries from small stands located around the perimeter of the sanctuary, but these do not generally constitute a significant part of overall tourism revenue.


The island is home to a variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, Virginia opossums and American alligators. Rare or threatened species such as the piping plover and eastern indigo snake also inhabit the area. The Audubon Society’s preserve traverses some of the smallest ecological communities in South Florida, including subtidal and intertidal marine environments (the latter extending to depths greater than 20-mi), forested swamps, maritime hammocks and uplands.


De Witt Island is a small and quiet island located in the middle of the East River, in Queens County, New York. The island is accessible by ferry from Manhattan and Brooklyn. The population of the island is around 50 people, all of whom reside on the island year-round. De Witt Island is a former prison island and has been used for detention, reformatory and correctional institutions. Today, it is home to the New York State Psychiatric Institute, a psychiatric hospital.


1.What is the climate on De Witt Island?

The island has a humid subtropical climate, meaning that there is high humidity throughout the year and significant variations in temperature from day to night.

2.How many people live on De Witt Island?

There are currently 50 people living on the island year-round, with seasonal residents joining them during summer months. The population fluctuates due to fluctuations in visitor numbers.

3.What is the history of De Witt Island?

The island was originally protected by the British as one of their forts during the War of 1812, and during that time it was used to house convicts. Hudson’s Bay Company fur traders begun trading on De Witt Island in 1791, which led to increased settlements there.

4.How did De Witt Island get it’s name?

The island was named after Governor Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., who inherited his father’s estate that included some land on what is now known as De Witt Island in 1776, before he became governor nine years later (James Houghton). Find out more about this historic figure here: /Jonathan_Trumbull

5.Does the island have any historical significance?

The island is not of historical significance in the world, but it was an important symbol for many New Yorkers during colonial and revolutionary war.



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