St. Marks Lighthouse
The lighthouse is one of the
most visited spots at the St.
Marks National Wildlife
Coastal Marshes in Florida
The St. Marks National
Wildlife Refuge protects
thousands of acres of coastal
marshes. - St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida - St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge - St. Marks, Florida
St. Marks Lighthouse
The beautiful tower of the historic St. Marks
Lighthouse rises above the North Florida coast.
History and Beauty on the Coast
Some of the most beautiful scenery on the
Florida Coast is far removed from the white
sand beaches of Northwest Florida and the
crowds of Miami and Daytone Beach.

The St. Marks National WIldlife Refuge
occupies thousands of acres of pristine and
environmentally-sensitive land along the Gulf
of Mexico. The land preserved by the refuge
includes some of the most historically
significant in the state.

Native Americans had frequented the area for
thousands of years before the Spanish
arrived in Florida. The rich resources of the
marshes and forests around Apalachee Bay
and the mouth of the St. Marks River offered
them numerous natural foods including fish,
crabs, oysters, deer, birds and a variety of
other animals and plants.

It was here in 1528 that the expedition of
Spanish explorer Panfilo de Narvaez came to
the end. After battling the nearby Apalachee
Indians, Narvaez and his men gave up on
their inland explorations and marched for a
place they called Aute. Most experts now
believe that Aute was somewhere near the
mouth of the St. Marks River, probably within
the limits of the St. Marks National Wildlife

Here they built crude boats and sailed off into
the Gulf of Mexico and eternity. Of the 400 or
so men with Narvaez when the expedition
began, only four survived to reach the
Spanish settlements of Mexico. The sea
claimed the boats and most of the other men
vanished without a trace.

Other Europeans followed and the lower St.
Marks River became an important port for the
Spanish missions established among the
Apalachee villages around present-day
Tallahassee. The Spanish built a significant
fort at
San Marcos de Apalache ("St. Marks of
Apalache") and a second watch tower lower
down the river inside the refuge.

From the 1600s through the early 1800s, the
marshes and wilderness areas were
explored by Spanish, British and eventually
American soldiers. In 1818, Andrew Jackson
seized San Marcos de Apalache during the
First Seminole War and the refuge area
became part of the United States three years

One of the most photographed landmarks on
Florida's "Big Bend" coast, the
St. Marks
Lighthouse has overlooked the waters of
Apalachee Bay since 1832. It is also the
most visited spot in the St. Marks National
Wildlife Refuge. Perched by the water of
Apalachee Bay at the end of the refuge's
main entrance road, the lighthouse is noted
for its beauty. The grounds can be explored
Constructed to help ships navigate the
dangerous channel of the St. Marks River, the
lighthouse provided vital guidance to the
early Florida port cities of St. Marks and Port
Leon. These towns served as the Gulf ports
for Florida's capital city of

Port Leon was destroyed in a hurricane
during the 1840s, but the lighthouse survived
and remains today.

Confederate forces constructed an artillery
battery named Fort Williams at the lighthouse
early in the Civil War, but abandoned it
because the position was too exposed.

The St. Marks Lighthouse and refuge played
a critical role in the last significant Southern
victory of the war, the
Battle of Natural Bridge,
Florida. Union troops landed at the
lighthouse in March of 1865 but were turned
back at Natural Bridge on March 6, 1865.
Fighting took place in the refuge at East River.

The refuge now offers hiking trails,
observation platforms for viewing wildlife, a
host of outdoors activities, a visitor center
and more. It is open year-round during
daylight hours and there is a $5 admission
fee. The main entrance is located off U.S.
Highway 98 east of St. Marks.
Please click
here to visit the refuge website.
Where WIldlife Has a Bite
The refuge is a spectacular
place for watching birds and
other wildlife, including
Apalachee Bay
The St. Marks Refuge borders
Apalachee Bay, an area rich
in history and surrounded by
archaeological sites.
Observation Platform
The hiking trail around
Mounds Pool takes visitors to
a beautiful overlook and past
historic and archaeological
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.