St. Marks Florida

FEATURED LISTING: Florida ::: St. Marks

St. Marks in Wakulla County is a rural town with a small population of only two hundred and seventy two people. This region of Florida has remained unchanged and unspoiled for almost two hundred years. Unfortunately, this coastal town, which was a very significant part of the local economy, has lost its importance as a port. Perhaps, the change in the agricultural scene reduced its role in local development, but helped it retain its pristine environment even today.

In the 1820s, the town of St. Marks was an important port of entry into the state. The town served as a port for the prosperous planting region of Middle Florida as well as some counties of South Georgia. Planters would haul their agricultural products, particularly cotton, down to the port town in wagons on an early road. Later, this road was widened and improved upon by the Tallahassee Railroad Company and became the state's first railroad. Through the early 1900’s, this historic railroad corridor was used to carry cotton from the plantation belt to the coast for shipment to St. Augustine and other ports and then on to textile mills in England and New England.

There were, however, problems in navigating both the Apalachee Bay and the St. Marks River, as both the bay and river were shallow in many places and often ships grounded here. In 1828, the Senate Committee on Commerce recognized the town of St. Marks as an official port of entry and recommended the building of a lighthouse in the area. It was completed in 1831, when the tower's whale-oil lamps were lit for the first time. By 1842, erosion threatened the lighthouse, and a new tower was constructed at a safer site, and the original lantern and illuminating apparatus were reinstalled.

Unfortunately, the tower suffered a lot of damage during the Civil War and it had to be rebuilt completely immediately after the war. During this reconstruction, the height of the tower was increased to its present focal plane of 82 feet above sea level, and the original lighting apparatus was restored. The Lighthouse was automated in 1960 and remains today an active aid to navigation for vessels on the Apalachee Bay.

The St. Marks Unit of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is the refuge head quarters. A seven-mile drive from its visitor center, through fresh and brackish water impoundments, ends at the foot of the Apalachee Bay, near the historic St. Marks Lighthouse. The unique ecosystem of this Gulf Coast area is marked by uplands forests, forested swamps, fresh and brackish water marshes and a pristine salt-water estuary. St. Marks NWR is a favorite for birders and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

The Tallahassee/St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail runs from Tallahassee, past the Apalachicola National Forest, and ends in St. Marks. This was the route of the states first railroad and today, is a paved trail. It provides an excellent route for bikers, walkers and skaters. The adjacent unpaved trail provides opportunities for horseback riding. San

Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park area, off St. Marks, dates back to Spanish times and has a museum and the remains of a fort.

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