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Friends of St. Marks Refuge

Contact: John Haines/Treasurer
Work PO Box 368 St. Marks FL 32355 Home Phone: (850) 925-6121 Website: http://www.stmarksrefuge.org
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Biography

Photo of Friends of St. Marks Refuge

Welcome to St. Marks NWR

This unique refuge was established in 1931 to provide wintering habitat for migratory birds. It is one of the oldest refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System. It encompasses 68,000 acres spread out between Wakulla, Jefferson, and Taylor counties along the Gulf Coast of northwest Florida. The refuge includes coastal marshes, islands, tidal creeks and estuaries of seven north Florida rivers, and is home to a diverse community of plant and animal life. The refuge also has strong ties to a rich cultural past, and is home to the St. Marks Lighthouse, which was built in 1832 and is still in use today.

 

A Diverse Wildlife Refuge

St. Marks Unit: The St. Marks Unit of the St. Marks NWR is the location for the refuge head quarters and visitor center. A seven mile drive winds it way from the visitor center through fresh and brackish water impoundments and ends at the foot of the Apalachee Bay, near the historic St. Marks Lighthouse. Boat ramps, nature trails and a picnic area are located within this unit, and a road-side auto tour booklet is available for purchase in the visitor center. Uplands forests, forested swamps, fresh & brackish water marshes and a pristine salt water estuary ecosystem compose this unique area of Florida’s Gulf Coast, making the St. Marks Unit a favorite for birders and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Federal entrance fees are in effect.

Wakulla Unit: Located off Hwy 98, west of the town of St. Marks, the Wakulla Unit of the wildlife refuge offers upland forests, palm hammocks, fresh and brackish water marshes and tidal beach access to the Apalachee Bay. This unit is open to quota-hunts during the fall and winter months, and it provides an ideal launching point for small boats year-round. Approximately 5.5 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail traveres through this portion of the refuge. No facilities. Use of launch point and access to trails are free to the public.

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Panacea Unit: The Panacea Unit is largely dominated by uplands pine and oak forests, with several fresh water lakes interspersed. Primitive walking trails criss-cross through this unit, and like the Wakulla Unit, this unit is open to quota-hunts during the fall and winter months. Located within the Panacea Unit is the Otter Lake Recreation Area, which offers picnic shelters, restrooms and a launching point for small boats, with a motor size limit of 10 horse power or less. About 6.5 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail traverses this unit of the refuge. The Panacea Unit is located west of the Wakulla Unit on Hwy 98, just inside the town of Medart, and along Hwy 319 south, toward the town of Sopchoppy. Use of picnic facilities, trails and launch point is free to the public.

Aucilla River Unit: Located along the banks of the Aucilla River, this unique area features a boat ramp and plenty of fishing opportunities for visitors. This area is currently managed by Taylor County in a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Aucilla River unit is located off Hwy 98, approximately 15 miles east of the town of Newport. Aucilla boat ramp are still subject to the user fee for Taylor County.

For more information on St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge write Refuge Manager, P.O. Box 68, St. Marks, FL 32355. Phone: (850) 925-6121 or email us at: saintmarks@fws.gov.

Click here for a map of the area. Return to top of page

 

Refuge Information

Visitation: 250,000+ visitors, annually

Address: P.O. Box 68, St. Marks, FL 32355
Telephone: (850) 925-6121
Email Address: saintmarks@fws.gov

Hours of operation:
The refuge is open year ’round, daylight hours. The Visitor Center is open Mondays – Fridays, 8am – 4 pm; Saturdays and Sundays, 10 am – 5 pm; Closed most Federal holidays.

The St. Marks Unit and Otter Lake Recreation Area electronic gates are open from 6 am – 9 pm during Eastern Daylight Savings Time and 6 am – 7 pm during Eastern Standard Time.

Climate : Late Fall through early Spring the weather is usually cool, with some afternoon showers; Summer is hot and humid with a variety of biting insects.

Fees, Costs, and Rates : A $5/car entrance fee is collected at the St. Marks Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge. Fees for bicyclists/pedestrians are $1/day. An annual pass into the St. Marks NWR can be purchased for $15/12 months. Federal passes such as the new $80 America the Beautiful pass, $10 Senior Pass, and the free Access Pass are accepted and are sold/issued at the Refuge Visitor Center. Federal Duck stamps can be purchased they are $15 and are good from July 1 thru June 30. Commercial Tour buses and/or van rates are as follows: Bus or Van: 20 visitors or less is $25.00 and 21 visitors or more is $50.00. Note: Charter tour bus companies need to make arrangements with Refuge management prior to bringing their tours to St. Marks NWR. A user fee for the boat ramp is collected at the Aucilla River Unit.

Only pets on a leash are allowed on the refuge.

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Federal Recreation Passport Program : St. Marks NWR recognizes the following federal passports:

  1. Federal Duck Stamp
  2. St. Marks NWR Annual Passport
  3. Access Passport
  4. Senior Passport
  5. Annual Passport

Any of the above passports can be purchased at the Refuge Visitor Center. All passports exempt Entrance Fees only! Visitors wishing to use the Aucilla Boat Ramp are still subject to the Users’ Fee.

Special Use Permits : Outside of research projects, requests to use refuge facilities for special functions and/or group activities must be made in writing to the Refuge Manager at least 6 weeks in advance of the activity. Each request will be evaluated for compatibility with refuge objectives and, if approved, will be handled by a Special Use Permit. A fee may be applied for the special use permit issued.