National Wildlife Refuge
|1200 Lighthouse Road
St. Marks, FL 32355
Phone Number: 850-925-6121.
|Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
|Seven rivers flow through the Wilderness saltmarsh of the beautiful St. Marks NWR|
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
St. Marks NWR, located 25 miles south of Tallahassee along the Gulf Coast of Florida, is a well-known oasis of natural Florida habitats for wildlife, especially birds. Natural salt marshes, freshwater swamps, pine forests and lakes provide a haven for wildlife and people.
Fishing, hiking, birdwatching, butterfly-watching, hunting, and viewing the historic St. Marks lighthouse on beautiful Apalachee Bay attract visitors from around the world. Special events highlighting the refuge's coastal resources, monarch butterflies, wildflowers and migratory birds enhance visitors' opportunities to learn more about this special place.
Established in 1931 for wintering migratory birds, St. Marks NWR has a long tradition of excellent birdwatching. There are over 300 species of birds recorded on the refuge, with 98 species nesting on-site. There are 19 species of ducks and many hawks, falcons, and shorebirds migrating through the refuge in the fall and winter. There are 14 active bald eagle nests and the endangered least tern and red-cockaded woodpecker also nest on the refuge.
In the spring, the refuge is a showcase of colors as songbirds migrate north through coastal oaks and shrubs. Wildlife abounds on St. Marks NWR due to the wide diversity of habitats, ranging from wilderness saltmarshes, ribboned with tidal creeks, to rolling longleaf pine forests, with swamps, sinkholes, and palm/oak hammocks in between. Located in Wakulla, Jefferson, and Taylor counties, the refuge spans over 43 miles of coastline and supports 52 species of mammals such as the Florida black bear and bobcat; 40 species of amphibians such as the endangered flatwoods salamander, and 65 species of reptiles.
Visitors may glimpse endangered loggerhead sea turtles and West Indian manatees offshore by the lighthouse. State-listed threatened and endangered plants are also found on the refuge. St. Marks NWR's location also makes it an ideal host for the natural marvel of the migrating monarch butterflies in October on their way to Mexico!
Getting There . . .
St. Marks NWR is located 25 miles south of Tallahassee, Florida. Take State Hwy. 363 through Woodville to the intersection of State Hwy.363 and State Hwy. 267 (blinking light at this intersection). Turn left onto 267 and drive 4 miles to dead end into U.S.Hwy. 98 (Coastal Hwy). Turn left onto Coastal Hwy. and drive about 1/2 mile, cross over the St. Marks River, and take your first right on Co. Rd. 59 (Lighthouse Rd.).
The Visitor Center and most public usfacilities begin three miles down Lighthouse Rd. A 6.8-mile wildlife drive runs from the Visitor Center to the old historic St. Marks lighthouse on Apalachee Bay. Maps and other information are available by calling 850-925-6121.
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The marsh and water management program at St. Marks NWR includes water level management in 1,500 acres of artificial manmade pools (impoundments). In these pools, salt water may be pumped into the pools to control plant growth; burning is used to reduce trees and other woody growth and spot herbicide used for cattail control. Water levels may be raised and lowered to maximize resting and feeding areas for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. Dead trees, called snags, are left around the impoundments especially for perching and nesting hawks and eagles. The refuge currently hosts 14 active bald eagle nesting territories during the fall and winter months.
The fire and forest management program includes management for multi-age stands, using the tools of commercial harvesting and prescribed burning. Approximately 1/3 of the fire-dependent habitats of the refuge are burned each year,using both dormant and growing season burns. Planting is used to restore the historic fire-dependentlongleaf/wiregrass ecosystem. The endangered Red-cockaded woodpecker prefers cavity trees among the old longleaf pines where fire regularly occurs. The refuge biologists survey and band both the young and adult red-cockadeds and add artificial nest cavities to increase the tiny population.
Pest animals include feral hogs, dogs and cats. Pest plants include coggon grass, cattail and Chinese tallow trees. Surveys are conducted on nesting eagles,red-cockaded woodpeckers, wading birds, pelicans, and shorebirds. Population surveys are done during wintering waterfowl season.