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St. Marks Wilderness

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A majestic white bird wades in the marshy shallows.
Library image #3345: Great Egret

Introduction

The United States Congress designated the St. Marks Wilderness (map) in 1975 and it now has a total of 17,350 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Florida and is managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Description

The U.S. Congress designated part of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge as the St. Marks Wilderness in 1975. The refuge is located along the Gulf coast of the Panhandle of Florida, 25 miles south of Tallahassee, the state capitol.

The diverse habitat and abundant wildlife populations make St. Marks NWR one of the most outstanding units of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Visitors view wildlife across primitive saltmarshes, and in hardwood swamps, freshwater pools and lakes, fragrant pine flatwoods and pine-oak uplands. The refuge also protects 32,000 acres of Apalachee Bay that runs along the 40-some mile long coast, where visitors will see pelicans, bottlenose dolphins, manatees, sea turtles. The bay is also a popular saltwater fishing destination.

Whether you are interested in birds, frogs, mammals, snakes, alligators, wildflowers, butterflies or just walking quietly in the woods, St. Marks NWR provides a generous variety of activities for visitors. Besides saltwater fishing, the refuge also boast year 'round freshwater fishing, hiking, birdwatching, seasonal hunting, and educational programs. Nesting birds include the Southern bald eagle, the red-cockaded woodpecker, wood ducks, ospreys and many song and shorebirds. Mammals such as white-tailed deer, black bear, river otter, bobcat, and foxes may be seen in their native habitats. In October, thousands of migrating monarch butterflies pause at St. Marks NWR to feed on their way to Mexico.

Forty-one miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail traverse St. Marks NWR from west to east, including through the eastern portion of the St. Marks Wilderness. Through hikers do qualify for camping permits. Otherwise, all visitor use is daylight use only. Entrance fees apply to the Lighthouse Rd. area of the refuge. The refuge visitor center is open every day except federal holidays and offers visitors many free publications,exhibits, a bookstore, and friendly information about the refuge.

Planning to Visit the St. Marks Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the St. Marks Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.