St. Mark's National Refuge & Lighthouse
Lighthouse, Gators and water
This is the Year of the Pig, according to Chinese tradition, but where we've been spending
our 2019 winter, it's definitely the Year of the Gator.
Moving from our nature-laden paradise in Lakeland, Florida, we wandered back north
to the panhandle portion of the Gulf of Mexico.
Crawfordville sits a stone's throw south of Tallahassee and about a half hour's drive to the sea.
To say nature has followed us here would be brazen and pompous because I think it was
most likely here long before we 'discovered' this section of the world.
Our first venture out, after setting up the fifth wheel at our new month-long home at
Wildwood Golf and RV Resort, was St. Mark's National Wildlife Refuge and lighthouse.
The Refuge consists of 17,000 acres protected under the Federal Wilderness Act. Forty-three
miles of it follows the Gulf coastline.
The landscape at St. Mark's changes dramatically and often. According to their website:
The first day we visited the refuge, the sun was beating down on the pavement making it feel hotter than it really was. It was lovely. The alligators agreed.
This unique refuge was 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.
Getting to the lighthouse at the end of the road took longer than expected because of all our pit stops along the way. The refuge boasts a massive amount of trails (including the Florida National Scenic Trail), horse trailer parking, fishing ramps, picnic tables and shelters, observation platforms ... and wildlife.
Once we arrived at the lighthouse we were a little disappointed to find out that it was closed and only was open a few days a month. But the area surrounding it didn't disappoint.
Trails lead both directions from the main parking lot. The longest is the beachfront one that reaches the end of the point and where, apparently in the spring, with extremely good luck and timing, one can see manatees. Not today.
But there were grackles, fiddler crabs and the remains of a horseshoe crab which more resembles a ancient suit of armor then a horseshoe.
On the way back we found a few more birds. All-in-all, not a bad day out. And with our America the Beautiful pass ... we'll definitely return.
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