What took us so long to visit St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge? Established in 1931 to provide winter habitat for migrating birds along the Florida coast in Wakulla County, we passed by the entrance many times over the years, always heading somewhere else. Every time one of us commented that we needed to stop one day.
One day came in early May. Our planned 2+ week trip canceled due to me receiving a summons for jury duty scheduled for mid-May (when we would be 9 hours drive from home), we decided to take the first part of the trip and then head home. Looking at the area we realized St. Mark’s would be under an hour drive from our campground. On a sunny, warm morning we arrived and stopped at the visitor’s center. It opens at 8 a.m. and we arrived shortly after that. We picked up a map, and started driving down the road to the lighthouse. I looked at the map for hiking trails as Karl drove, and then we reached Stoney Bayou Pool. Birds waded and flew everywhere. We pulled over and grabbed our binoculars. White Pelicans floated in a group off in the distance, closer we saw birds of all types. Of course, in any area with water in the south always look down and right in front of you. I walked closer to the water, binoculars in hand, observing the pelicans in the distance and came upon this guy, not too close but a good reminder to be aware of my immediate surroundings.
We drove further down, stopping often at the various bodies of water, amazed at the sheer amount of bird life. In one pond we spotted Great egrets, Snowy egrets, Tri-color herons, and Great blue herons among all the shorebirds. We were overwhelmed by the numbers, and leaving about lunch time realized we never did get on that hike. We spent all our time along the road just watching the birds.
We highly recommend it, and yes we will be back. Hopefully next time we will get on some of the hiking trails!