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  • Brian Childress

St Marks National Wildlife Refuge - Wakulla County, Florida

Updated: Sep 9

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the United States. Established in 1931 as a wintering ground for migratory birds, it encompasses 68,000 acres (280 km2) spread between Wakulla, Jefferson, and Taylor Counties in the state of Florida.

The refuge includes several Gulf of Mexicocoastal habitats, such as saltwater marshes, islands, tidal creeks, and the estuaries of seven north Florida rivers. It is home to a diverse range of plant and animal life and also has a long history of human use, including structures such as the St. Marks Lighthouse, the second oldest lighthouse in Florida. The refuge is a 'gateway site' for the Great Florida Birding Trail.


The refuge is inhabited by black bear, bobcat, otter, raccoon, fox, coyote, amphibians, alligator, snakes and many different species of birds including wading birds, shorebirds, waterfowl and raptors. During migrations, bird species and numbers dramatically increase.

There are numerous fishing venues and many different freshwater and saltwater fish for fishing enthusiasts. A boat ramp near the lighthouse offers direct access to the St. Marks River and subsequently, the Gulf of Mexico. The boat ramp is subject to tidal influence and low tides may affect launching and retrieving abilities.


Kayakers have direct access to the Gulf from the Lighthouse parking lot.


Hikers and cyclists have their choice of miles of impoundments and trails to traverse through widely varied habitats and ecosystems. There is a biking trail that runs about 20 miles from south side of Tallahassee all the way down to the nearby town of St. Marks following an old railroad corridor.


Things to see and do:


Simply driving through the park, especially during migration, allows for photography of various birds to include the Bald Eagle. There are various Eagle Nests that can be seen from the main road.


A visit to the St Marks Lighthouse to see the scenic views of the Gulf of Mexico is a must-see. There is even an elevated overlook adjacent to the lighthouse.


The lighthouse area is a perfect location for kayaking and boating. If you kayak we highly recommend sea kayaks as the the water with the help of the tide can be turbulent.


There are plenty of hiking trails throughout the refuge and because of the help of the gulf breeze, insect harassment is not as bad here.


This refuge is one you should go out of your way to visit because of the wildlife you will see. This is a must-see for birders, hikers, and kayakers.


Tips:


Bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

Bring a camera beyond that of a smart phone because you will see spectacular wildlife.


Contact Information:

St. Marks NWR Visitor Center PO Box 68 St. Marks, FL 32355


Phone: (850) 925-6121

Email Us: saintmarks@fws.gov


Website: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/st_marks/




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