You can walk or drive on the levee surrounding the Hickory Mound Impoundment to view green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, northern pintail, gadwall, mallard, American wigeon, northern shoveler, black duck, canvasback, redhead, ring-necked duck, lesser and greater scaup, common goldeneye, bufflehead, and hooded and red-breasted merganser. Snow geese and swans occasionally overwinter. There are many raptors during various seasons of the year, including American swallow-tailed and Mississippi kites, bald eagles, and ospreys. Wading birds are usually present, and alligators spend their time basking on warm days year-round.
St. Marks Lighthouse is a unique refuge established in 1931 to provide wintering habitat for migratory birds. It is one of the oldest refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System. It encompasses 68,000 acres spread out between Wakulla, Jefferson, and Taylor counties along the Gulf Coast of northwest Florida. The refuge includes coastal marshes, islands, tidal creeks and estuaries of seven north Florida rivers, and is home to a diverse community of plant and animal life. The refuge also has strong ties to a rich cultural past, and is home to the St. Marks Lighthouse, which was built in 1832 and is still in use today.
The crystalline Ichetucknee River flows six miles through shaded hammocks and wetlands before it joins the Santa Fe River. In 1972, the head spring of the river was declared a National Natural Landmark by the U. S. Department of the Interior. From the end of May until early September, tubing down the river is the premier activity in the area. In addition to tubing, visitors can enjoy picnicking, snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing, swimming, hiking, and wildlife viewing. White-tailed deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, wood ducks and great blue herons can be seen from the river. Picnic areas, equipped with tables and grills, are available throughout the park. A full-service concession offers food, refreshments, and outdoor products from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Tubes plus snorkeling and diving equipment can be rented from private vendors outside the park. The springs are located four miles northwest of Fort White, off State Roads 47 and 238.
The many different flags welcoming visitors to San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park demonstrate the colorful history of this site, from the first Spanish explorers to the present day. The history of this National Landmark began in 1528 when Panfilo de Narvaez arrived in the area with 300 men; however, the first fort was not built until 1679. Andrew Jackson occupied the fort for a brief time in the early 1800s. The museum at the park displays pottery and tools unearthed near the original fort and explains the history of the San Marcos site. A self-guided trail is open to visitors and guided tours are available with two weeks advance notice. The museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Thursday through Monday, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. The park is located in St. Marks, off State Road 363, on Old Fort Road.
As winter quickly becomes a distant memory, numerous varieties of spring wild flowers are starting to show their colors at Ochlockonee River State Park. Among these flowers are several species of rare orchids. The many different species of flowering plants in the open vistas of this beautiful park are a result of many years of prescribed burning. In our many creeks and rivers, crappie (locally known as speckled perch) and largemouth bass will be spawning. This is a great opportunity to catch these species, along with the salt water species in the gulf. If you enjoy birding- wild turkeys, red-cockaded Woodpeckers and many other species can be viewed. This is an excellent time of the year to canoe our many rivers and creeks
Natural Bridge is the site of the second largest Civil War battle in Florida and where the St. Marks River drops into a sinkhole and flows underground for one-quarter of a mile before reemerging. During the final weeks of the Civil War, a Union flotilla landed at Apalachee Bay, planning to capture Fort Ward (San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park) and march north to the state capital. With a timely warning, volunteers from the Tallahassee area-Confederate soldiers, old men, and young boys-met the Union forces at Natural Bridge and successfully repelled three major attacks. The Union troops were forced to retreat to the coast and Tallahassee was the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi not captured by the Union. A reenactment of the battle is held at the park every March. The battlefield is located on Natural Bridge Road, six miles east of Woodville, off State Road 363.
Visitors to Letchworth Mounds State Park will see Florida's tallest Native American ceremonial mound-46 feet-built between 1100 and 1800 years ago. The people who built the mound are believed to have been members of the Weedon Island Culture, a group of Native Americans who lived in North Florida between 200 and 800 A.D. The park offers picnicking, birding, and hiking. A nature trail winds around the perimeter of the ceremonial mound. The picnic area and platform viewing area for the mound are wheelchair-accessible. Located 15 miles east of Tallahassee, off U.S. 90 on 4500 Sunray Road South
In 1927 the Jackson Bluff Dam was constructed on the Ochlockonee River to produce hydroelectric power. The waters held back by the dam formed Lake Talquin, which now offers outstanding recreational opportunities. Catch largemouth bass, bream, shellcracker, and speckled perch. Visitors can enjoy nature walks, picnicking, boating, and canoeing. Nature lovers will enjoy the rolling hills and deep ravines with forests of pines and hardwoods where they may spy wild turkeys, bald eagles, ospreys, and deer. To reserve the picnic pavilion for a special gathering, please call at least two weeks in advance. The pavilion is reserved on a first-come-first-served basis.
More than eight centuries ago, Native Americans inhabited the area around Lake Jackson, just north of Tallahassee. The park site was part of what is now known as the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. Today, it encompasses six earthen temple mounds and one possible burial mound. The largest mound is 278 feet by 312 feet at the base and approximately 36 feet in height. Artifacts of pre-Columbian societies have been found here including copper breastplates, necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and cloaks. Visitors can enjoy a short hike past the remains of an 1800s grist mill or picnic on an open grassy area near the largest mound. Guided tours and interpretive programs of the park are available upon request. The mounds are located off U.S. 27, two miles north of I-10 in Tallahassee. Take Crowder Road and turn right onto Indian Mounds Road.
Home of one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world, Wakulla Springs plays host to an abundance of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, deer, and birds. Daily guided riverboat tours provide a closer view of wildlife, and glass bottom boat tours are offered when the water is clear. Swimming is a popular activity during the hot summer months. A nature trail offers a leisurely walk along the upland wooded areas of the park. The Wakulla Springs Lodge was built in 1937 by financier Edward Ball and is open year-round. A full-service dining room overlooks the spring; lodge meeting facilities offer an excellent place for retreats. Wakulla Springs State Park and Lodge is listed on the Natural Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Natural Landmark. To reserve a guest or meeting room, please call the park. The springs are located 14 miles south of Tallahassee on State Road 267 at the intersection with State Road 61.
Nestled along the northern Gulf Coast, this park protects a mosaic of diverse landscapes. The Econfina River meanders like a dark ribbon through pine flatwoods, oaks and palm forests to broad expanses of salt marsh dotted with pine islands. Nature lovers can explore the scenic beauty by foot, bicycle, or horseback on nine miles of wooded trails-or drift along the river in a kayak, canoe, or boat. Trails lead to a panoramic view of coastal Florida where lush islands, sand dunes left from a bygone era, dot the horizon. The Econfina River empties into the Gulf of Mexico 2.2 miles south of the park's boat ramp. Picnic facilities are near the boat ramp. Equestrians must register with the park office prior to using a trail. The park is located in Taylor County at the end of State Road 14, south of U.S. 98.
Some of the most picturesque scenic areas along north Florida´s Gulf Coast can be found at Bald Point. Located on Alligator Point where Ochlockonee Bay meets Apalachee Bay, Bald Point offers a multitude of land and water activities. Coastal marshes, pine flatwoods, and oak thickets foster a diversity of biological communities that make the park a popular destination for birding and wildlife viewing. Every fall, bald eagles, other migrating raptors, and monarch butterflies are commonly sighted as they head south for the winter. Bald Point offers access to two Apalachee Bay beaches for swimming, sunbathing, and fishing. Other activities include canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, and hiking. Facilities include a fishing dock and picnic pavilions. The point is located off U.S. 98, one mile south of Ochlockonee Bay. Take State Road 370 for 3 miles to Bald Point Road.
These beautiful ornamental gardens were first planted in 1923 by Alfred B. and Louise Maclay after they purchased the property for their winter home. A masterpiece of floral architecture, the Alfred B. Maclay Gardens feature a picturesque brick walkway, a secret garden, a reflection pool, a walled garden, and hundreds of azaleas and camellias. Lake Hall provides opportunities for swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Only boats without motors or with electric motors are allowed. Pavilions and grills along the lake shore provide the perfect setting for a picnic. For walking enthusiasts, two short nature trails meander through the woods overlooking the lake. Hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians can enjoy five miles of multi-use trails winding through the woods surrounding Lake Overstreet, located on park property adjoining the gardens. High blooming season is from January 1-April 30 with the floral peak in mid-to-late March. During these months, the Maclay house is open daily, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Located one-half mile north of I-10 on U.S. 319.