Visitor Activities

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of outdoor recreation activities for visitors. The Visitor Center presents a general overview of how the refuge is managed and what there is to see and do. For current information and wildlife sightings, check at the Visitor Center.

  • General

    There are lots of fun, interesting, and educational things you can do on the refuge.  Keep in mind, if an activity is not wildlife related and doesn’t help in the protection or understanding of wildlife or their habitat, there are probably refuge rules governing this activity.  Please check with the refuge management before participating in an activity that could harm the environment or yourself.  There are plenty of activities on St. Marks NWR for you to enjoy.  Be safe and have fun but obey all Federal and State laws and regulations and Refuge rules.

  • Birding


    The seasons bring about marked changes in both species and abundance of birdlife. Best opportunities for observing the greatest variety and number of birds are during the fall and spring. Waterfowl are most easily seen on the refuge from mid-November through late December. Shore birds are most common during late spring and early fall.

    [Refuge Bird List]


    St. Marks NWR is the gateway to the Panhandle Section of the Florida Birding Trail and offers brochures for all sections of the Trail and loaner binoculars to visitors. For more information on the Trail, please see .

  • Trails



    Administrative roads and levees may be closed during prescribed burns, peak wildlife events, especially around eagle nests, shorebird and waterfowl areas. Please check with the Visitor Center, (850)925-6121, for the latest information concerning closures. 

    Hiking is most pleasant on the refuge during the fall, winter and early spring.

    Florida National Scenic Trailenters the St. Marks Unit from the east and west. The entire segment of the Florida Trail on the refuge is 49.5 miles. Camping permits for through hikers are available at the Visitor Center. Open to foot & bicycle traffic only.

    Trail and Camping Information, and Camping permits.

    Apalachee Chapter of the Florida Trail Association website

    Plum Orchard Pond Trail - located behind the Visitor Center and Nature's Classroom.

    Primitive Trails – Deep Creek is 12 miles; Stoney Bayou is 6.5. Both trails start 1.5 miles south of the Visitor Center on Lighthouse Rd. Trails follow old logging roads and levees around refuge pools. Great for seeing shy wildlife and migratory birds. Map at trail head also. Open to foot, bicycle & horseback riding traffic.

    Headquarters Pond Trail – this ¼ mile trail is located across from the Tower Pond trailhead provides access to a small wooden observation deck at the edge of the pond. Named for an old refuge headquarters site, this pond is great for wading birds, ducks, wood storks and bald eagles. Open to foot & bicycle traffic only.

    Tower Pond Trail – (also known as Mounds Trail), it is located 5 miles south of Visitor Center, with parking next to the restrooms. The trail has a leaflet at the trail head and winds for one mile through slash pine forests, oak hammocks, and salt marsh. Tower Pond is now being managed as a saltwater lagoon for migratory songbirds, ducks, and wading birds. Open to foot and bicycle traffic only.

    Cedar Point Trail – located near the saltwater boat ramp, this is a ½ mile trail open to foot traffic only.

    Lighthouse Levee Trail – located at the end of Lighthouse Rd. at the right of the parking lot, this ½ mile trail has interpretive focuses on coastal plants. Leaflet at the trail head. Open to foot, bicycle and horseback riding traffic.

    Cathedral of the Palms  - This area is located in the Wakulla Unit of St. Marks NWR. Before you go, check the refuge website or call the refuge for hunt dates in the fall and winter. It’s a safe idea to plan your hike outside of those dates.

    Create your own – all levees and woodland roads are open to hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. Make up a trail that meets your needs! See refuge map.

    St. Marks NWR section of the Florida Circumnavigational Paddling Trail

    Segment 5 -- Crooked River/St. Marks Refuge (pdf)
    Segment 5 Index Map (jpg)
    Segment 5 Refuge Map 1 (jpg)
    Segment 5 Refuge Map 2 (jpg)
    Segment 5 Refuge Map 3 (jpg)
    Segment 5 Camping Application/Permit
    Section 5 -- Camping Permit Application Instructions

  • Hunting


    Hunting Opportunities include Big Game Hunting, Migratory Bird Hunting, Turkey Hunting, Upland Bird Hunting, Waterfowl Hunting

    Hunting opportunities were expanded in 2015 with three of our management units open for quota hunts based on species and weaponry. All hunts, except small game, are quota based. Applications can be made through We also offer Hunter Safety classes, Youth hunts, and hunts for persons with disabilities. For complete information on hunting turkeys, deer, hogs, and small game, download our hunt brochure at

    The St. Marks NWR holds several hunts on portions of the refuge including a special youth hunt.

    To learn more about hunting opportunities, seasons and regulations on the St. Marks NWR, contact the office at (850)925-6121.

    Hunt Regulations

  • Fishing


    The St. Marks NWR is open to fishing all year long and provides opportunities for both fresh and salt water fishing. In addition to many lakes, ponds, creeks and rivers, the refuge has boat launching sites (see maps) for access to Apalachicola Bay.

    Bank fishing is permitted in refuge impoundments along Lighthouse Rd. (Co. Rd. 59) all year; hand-launch boats are permitted March 15 - October 15 with electric trolling motors only.

    Boats are permitted with motors up to 10 h.p. in the lakes along S.R. 372 and Otter Lake off S.R. 372A.

    Crabbing is only permitted in tidal waters at the lighthouse. Crabbing is not permitted in refuge pools or impoundments.

    Find more information about fishing National Wildlife Refuges with our on-line Guide to Fishing on National Wildlife Refuges.


  • Wildlife Viewing


    The St. Marks NWR has more than 150 miles of refuge roads, levee, and developed trails are used by many visitors for wildlife viewing, hiking, backbacking and jogging. Over 40 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) cross the refuge. The refuge has approximately 1.5 miles of interpretive trails. Find more information in our publications and Maps pages.

  • Photography


    At St. Marks NWR there are many photography opportunities including behind the gates tours. Check the event calendar for photo opps and Beginning Nature Photography Classes.

  • Interpretation


    In addition to staff and volunteers presenting programs to audiences, refuges use a variety of exhibits, signs, brochures, and electronic media to communicate natural history stories to visitors. Printed and virtual information is often available on many topics, including plants and animals, seasonal migrations, habitats, refuge management strategies, and endangered species.

    Through Refuge System interpretation programs, you can learn how translocation of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers at St. Marks NWR is used to re-build their population, about the beneficial role of wildfire to encourage native vegetation to grow, and thousands of other interesting and informative stories.

  • Environmental Education


    Is your school, youth, environmental or other group interested in learning more about the wildlife, plants, habitats and ecology of a particular national wildlife refuge? Contact or visit the St. Marks NWR to check on program availability and reservation policies. Refuges are wild places, and we want to teach you more about them!