From the acclaimed National Wildlife Refuge to Historic State Park and from the popular multi-use trail to the pristine rivers, the City of St. Marks celebrates a rich diversity of natural resources. As the City of St. Marks undergoes its rebirth as a landmark coastal village, it will seek to protect the natural resources that give the community its charm.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Located directly across the rivers from the City of St. Marks is the Wakulla Unit and the St. Marks Unit of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Housed in the St. Marks Unit of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge are the refuge’s headquarters and visitor center, as well as the historic St. Marks Lighthouse. In addition to these important structures, the St. Marks Unit of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is home to a diverse array of ecosystems. Visitors to the wildlife refuge will encounter upland forests, forested swamps, fresh water marshes, brackish water marshes, and a salt water estuary. This unique arrangement of ecosystems provides habitats for migratory birds and waterfowl. Over two hundred fifty species of bird travel to the refuge, including seven federally-listed endangered species. In addition to the variety of birds, the St. Marks Unit of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is on the migratory path of Monarch butterflies. Monarch butterflies, as well as Sulfur, Swallowtail, Skipper, Viceroy, Queen, American Painted Beauty, and Fritillary butterflies are common to the area during certain parts of the year. Tourists visit from all over the world to experience the natural beauty and pristine environment of the refuge.
San Marcos de Apalache State Park
Located in St. Marks at the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers, the San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park is one of Florida’s major historic landmarks and one of thirty-nine National Historic Landmarks in Florida. The historical geography of the protected landscape and seascape includes a timeline that spans from when Panfilo de Navaez settled in 1528 through 1861 when Confederates took the fort during the Civil War. Today, the site is designated as a Florida State Park and boasts ongoing updates including a new video outlining the history of the site, expanded museum displays, and active volunteers that help maintain the park and museum.
Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail
The first railroad under construction in Florida, as well as the first railroad in the nation to receive a federal land grant, the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail is Florida’s first designated state trail and Florida’s first rail-trail. Originally used to transport cotton to East Coast markets and to textile mills in England, the corridor is now a multi-use paved trail for walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and skaters. Adjacent to the paved trail are unpaved trails for equestrian riding and the Munson Hills Off-Road Trail in the Apalachicola National Forest for mountain bicycling. The southern most sections of the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail are shared by the Florida National Scenic Trail. Being one of the most significant and widely-used trails in the nation, the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails has funded a project to widen portions of the trail due to heavy usage.
Outstanding Florida Waters
The St. Marks River and the Wakulla River are both designated as Outstanding Florida Waters. “Outstanding Florida Waters” is a special category for water bodies considered worthy of special protection due to their natural attributes. The designation is intended to protect the existing water quality of the water body.
Surface Waters Improvement and Management Program (SWIM)
The St. Marks River Watershed is designated as a Priority Surface Waters Improvement and Management Program (SWIM) water body. The watershed system includes the St. Marks River, the Wakulla River, Apalachee Bay, and associated lakes, sinkholes, and underground springs. The goals of the SWIM program are water quality protection; natural systems protection; cooperative activities among state agencies, local governments, and private organizations; and watershed management.
Gulf Ecological Management Site (GEMS)
The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and the Big Bend Seagrasses State Aquatic Preserve are both Gulf Ecological Management Sites (GEMS). GEMS are geographic areas that have special ecological significance to the continued production of fish, wildlife or other natural resource or that represent unique habitats. The Big Bend Seagrasses State Aquatic Preserve, covering over 945,000 acres, provides habitat for a variety of sea and shore birds, Cedar Key clams, oysters, pink shrimp, blue crab, and scallops.
The City of St. Marks has officially been designated a Waterfronts Florida Partnership Community. The Waterfronts Florida Partnership Program is intended to help communities revitalize, renew, and promote interest in their waterfront district by providing technical and financial assistance.
Big Bend Scenic Byway
The Coastal Trail East portion of the Big Bend Scenic Byway, the longest individual State Scenic Highway in Florida, passes through the City of St. Marks. The Big Bend Scenic Byway was designated by the Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation in March 2007, and includes over 220 miles of scenic corridors in Wakulla, Franklin, and Leon Counties. The Florida Scenic Highway Program promotes the preservation and enhancement of significant intrinsic resources along the scenic corridor.