Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Tel: (850) 925-6121
About 32 km (20 miles) across, this refuge encompasses some 27,135 hectares (67,000 acres) on Apalachee Bay, just south of Tallahassee. Over 270 bird species have been recorded in the salt marshes, tidal flats, hardwood swamps and hammocks of the refuge.
The main purpose of the refuge is to provide habitat for wintering waterfowl. By early December, some 20 species of ducks and two species of geese can usually be seen in the refuge’s wetlands. A variety of wading and shorebirds also winter here, and bald eagles can be seen nesting in winter. While the winter concentration of water birds is St Marks’ main attraction, spring and fall are also good times to see migrants.
The large visitor center just past the fee station has some excellent exhibits and a sighting log that will alert you to any rare birds or other wildlife. You can also buy a wildlife drive guide at the visitor center.
The lighthouse road is the refuge’s main artery. About 11km (7 miles) long, it is the only road in the refuge open for the public to drive on. Many pools along the road offer good places to see wading birds and other water birds. Hiking trails and dike roads crisscross the refuge and provide access to the site’s more remote regions.
Alligators are often seen sunning themselves on the dikes and refuge biologists estimate there may be 2,500 or more of these large reptiles on refuge lands. In October and November a variety of butterflies migrate through the refuge; many of them attracted to the wildflowers that bloom along the dike roads and around the lighthouse. The fall (late October to early November) migration of Monarch butterflies is particularly spectacular as they pause on this last landfall before flying across the Gulf of Mexico. The refuge holds a Monarch Butterfly festival in Late October every year.
More information on their web site
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge web site
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