Wakulla County is named after the native American word for “Spring of water”, and consists mostly of protected forests, salt marshes, and protected seagrass beds. Located in the Big Bend portion of the panhandle, it’s populated with towns that are known for their seasonal festivals and friendly atmosphere.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge encompasses over 80,000 acres through Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties and includes 43 miles of Gulf Coast. Established in 1931 to provide a winter haven for migratory birds, the diverse habitats include salt marshes, upland pines, freshwater pools, and open water that is home to various wildlife. Located inside St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is the iconic St. Marks Lighthouse. This historic way marker was built in 1830 and went into retirement in 2014 when it went dark for the first time since the Civil War. The lighthouse sits at the mouth of the St. Marks River and is open only a few times each month.
Off the shore of St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve. Spanning 150 miles of coastline and 984,000 acres, this aquatic preserve covers 5 different counties. Providing essential habitats such as salt marshes, sponge beds, and seagrass beds that allow for thriving life. This is a spectacular spot for snorkelers, scallopers, fishermen, and birdwatchers.
Wakulla Springs State Park is a first magnitude spring better known as the “Gem of Northwest Florida”. Discharging 300 million gallons of water per day, this springhead is the main source of water for the Wakulla River. Designated as one of Florida’s Outstanding Waters, this state park was the film site for 1900s hit movies such as the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Tarzan’s Secret Treasure. An archeological hot spot, with the fossil remains of mammoths, mastodons, giant sloths, camels, bison, and saber-tooth tigers have all been found both in Wakulla Spring and in the Wakulla River. Stay on site at the Wakulla Springs Lodge, take a river tour, swim in the 70-degree spring waters, and bask in the nature surrounding this area.
Wakulla County is brimming with festivals year-round. From Sopchoppy’s Worm Gruntin’ Festival, the Monarch Butterfly Festival at St. Marks to the Blue Crab and Oyster Festivals in Panacea, there is something for everyone. After the festivals, trying some fresh seafood at a local restaurant will be a good ending to the day.
Wakulla County is known for its winding creeks, freshwater rivers, bays, and small undeveloped islands all of which make an excellent spot for fishing, kayaking, and paddling. Spanning the coastline is a section of the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, this 1,515 mile sea kayaking paradise that is the country’s longest designated national recreation trail.
Apalachicola National Forest is the largest in Florida with over 571,000 acres and one of only three national forests in Florida. It is home to the American alligator, Florida black bear, white-tailed deer, gopher tortoises, and bald eagles. A biodiverse hotspot, these wooded lands also include over 2,000 acres of rivers, creeks, lakes and springs. It doesn’t matter if you are paddling up the Ochlockonee river or hiking along the Florida National Scenic Trail, there is no wrong way to explore this area.
September 20, 2023 - 3:15pm
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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.