St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge: Naturally Beautiful
By Gary McKechnie
Did you know National Wildlife Refuges preserve more acreage than America’s national parks? (About 150 million acres vs. 84 million acres.)
I had no idea, either, untilI learned that fact on trip to the wonderful J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel.
And that reminded me of another destination I hope you get a chance to visit -- the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse, about 25 miles south of Tallahassee.
There are salt marshes, tidal flats, and freshwater pools here, where back in 1639, the Spanish created Fort San Marcos de Apalache using stones from a nearby limestone quarry. Some of those same stones were used later to build the nearby lighthouse.
There are roughly 100,000 acres set aside here (70,000 on land, 32,000 in Apalchee Bay), which makes this a nice rest stop for thousands of migratory birds representing more than 300 species. Most are snowbirds, though, and it’s the alligators that hang out year-round, joined by raccoons, deer, gopher tortoises, bears and other members of Florida’s wildlife community.
If you live in a place that’s been changed by progress, it can be nice to see a side of Florida that’s hardly changed a bit.
If You Go
1255 Lighthouse Road (Route 363)
$5 per vehicle
Refuge daily sunrise–sunset; visitor center weekdays 8–4, weekends 10–5