Take a Hike: Early Spring in the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge
By Ashley Hopkins
Happy Spring, Tallahassee! And what a gorgeous spring it is going to be. If you are looking for the perfect way to start the season off right, take a trek just south of town to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and treat yourself to a hike around this gorgeous park. The 68,000 acre tract of land that is St. Marks NWR includes coastal marshes, tidal creeks and estuaries that are home to a diverse community of Floridian flora and fauna. An afternoon spent soaking up the outdoor glory is sure to help you shed that winter coat and ring in the spring!
While St. Marks has a number of trails, a favorite of mine is the Mounds Trail - it’s short and oh, boy is it sweet. The loop trail starts about 6 miles into the park, right by the sheltered restroom area where there is plenty of parking.Trail explorers start their journey off weaving through a forest of towering pines, oak hammocks and a forest bed of palms. Upon reaching the no longer in-use fire tower, you have the option so take the loop to the right or left along a trail that encompasses the Mounds Pool, a saltwater lagoon for migratory songbirds, ducks, and wading birds. Along this pool, there is a two person wildlife hide that allows hikers to spy on wildlife while remaining hidden. On the loop opposite where the old fire tower is located, hikers have to option to hop of the trail and explore the mounds that lead into the salt marshes.
Gators, migratory birds, and boards - oh my! This time of year offers tons of opportunities to see wilflide flourishing. Eaglets are venturing away from their nests and flying. Ospreys and red-cockaded woodpeckers are nesting. Early in the month, warbler and shorebird migration peaks and kites (Mississippi and swallow-tailed, for example) can be seen along ghte roads and pools. You're sure to spy a critter or two running, soaring or swimming around.
For more info about the other trails available at the Refuge, check out this page.
Hours and Directions to St. Marks NWR
The refuge is open year round, daylight hours.
The refuge's Visitor Center and administrative office is located about 25 miles south of Tallahassee, FL. From Tallahassee, take SR 363 (Woodville Hwy) to Wakulla. Turn left (east) on SR 267 (Bloxham Cutoff). At US 98 (Coastal Hwy), turn left (east) and cross the St. Marks River. Turn right on Lighthouse Road (CR 59) and drive 3 miles to the Visitor Center/Office.
(Map from Florida Hikes!)