Happy Birthday Pelican Island!

Updated: Mar 24

The Pelican Island Conservation Society invites the public to celebrate the 119th birthday of the nation’s very first National Wildlife Refuge.


Pelican Island NWR was established on March 14, 1903, by President Theodore Roosevelt. This year’s celebration begins on Saturday, March 12th at the refuge with a display featuring birds and wildlife from Tim Brown and the staff of Treasure Coast Wildlife Center, for show-and-tell. The demonstration will include the release of a rehabilitated pelican provided the Center has one available, and whether it passes its flight test the day before.


The wildlife display will be located at the entrance to Centennial Trail, where visitors can stroll the “planks” that feature a chronology of every refuge in the country, leading to a spacious covered overlook offering magnificent views of Pelican Island itself. Along the trail, visitors will encounter President Theodore Roosevelt, aka Joe Wiegand, the nation’s premier Teddy Roosevelt reenactor, who will be greeting admirers of his Refuge. Additional activities include a fishing demonstration for kids, a touch tank, and walking tours. Later that evening, President Roosevelt will host a sunset wine and cheese cruise leaving from the Environmental Learning Center campus located at 255 Live Oak Drive in Wabasso. Guests will enjoy the narrated boat tour around the island just in time to catch the many birds that arrive at the island to roost for the evening.

On Sunday, March 13th, festivities continue with another pontoon cruise to Pelican Island, featuring mimosas, French pastries, and more, along with President Roosevelt. Upon return to the ELC campus, there will be a delectable outdoor brunch under the trees. The brunch will feature French delicacies, such as quiche, pastries, and more, provided by Chef Zach from the Edgewood Eatery.

In addition to events at the Refuge, Indian River County is putting the finishing touches on the Rodney Kroegel Conservation Area at 11296 Indian River Drive in Sebastian. Rodney Kroegel is the son of Paul Kroegel, the very first game warden of Pelican Island. The area is expected to be open to the public shortly before the celebration. Pelican Island fans and history buffs are encouraged to check out the new installation where a representative from the Indian River County Historical Society will be available to provide information and offer a tour

of the site.

And if you just can’t get enough of President Roosevelt, Sunday’s brunch will conclude with a very special opportunity to take Teddy home with you! Well, sort of – Joe Wiegand will be auctioning himself to the highest bidder, for a private Teddy Roosevelt show (value - $10,000) at a mutually agreeable time and place within the next two years. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring history to life for your own friends and family!

For all the details, the full schedule of events throughout the weekend, including online reservations for the cruises and the brunch with President Roosevelt, visit the Pelican Island Conservation Society website or call 772-202-0697.