Hiking the Florida Panhandle


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Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge

St Marks Wildlife Refuge is located on the coast south of Tallahassee from Ochlockonee Bay to the Aucilla River. The visitor center is on SR 59, south of Hwy 98 about halfway to the beach. There are a couple of short walking trails behind the visitor center, and a spur trail that will take you to the Florida National Scenic Trail. (Click here for a map of the area.)

Further down SR 59 is a spot where you can park and walk east out onto the dikes that form freshwater pools for visiting waterfowl. The pools are also home to many alligators. We saw several lying on the banks of a canal that runs on the north side of the dike we were on. The alligator below was further down SR 59 on the other side of a canal that runs by the road.

Alligator sunning himself in the grass. Click for larger image.

At the end of SR 59 is the St Marks Lighthouse. It's truly a beautiful sight with its white tower against a bright blue sky.

The Saint Marks Lighthouse.

The areas of the refuge near the coast are mostly salt marsh. This is the terrain east of the lighthouse.

Panoromic view of the refuge looking east from the observation deck by the lighthouse. Click for larger image.

The above picture was taken from the observation platform just north of the lighthouse.

Monkeys like the one on the steps are native to the area. Click for larger view.

Across SR 59 from the platform is the Lighthouse Pool. It is brackish water that supports numerous waterfowl, wading birds and alligators.

A great egret. The sign reflected in the water says: Do Not Feed Alligators.

West of the lighthouse is a short hike along a dike that separates the Lighthouse Pool from the Gulf. Monarch butterflies collect along this trail in October before making their flight across the Gulf to Mexico.

A monarch resting on a cactus. These cacti grow all along the trail.

Looking back along the dike towards the lighthouse...

There's that monkey again. Click for larger view.


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