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Big Bend Scenic Byway

Explore Undiscovered North Florida

Stop #14: City of St. Marks

Driving Directions: Continue east on US 98 past the community of Medart to the intersection of Port Leon Drive (SR 363). Turn right on this Byway Spur to the City of St. Marks.

Distance and driving time between this and previous stop: 17.3 miles / 20 minutes.

cycling in St Marks

Luncheon Stop: 45 minutes.

Description: A wonderful location for lunch, this quaint Waterfronts Florida Community, which is one of the oldest settlements in North America, is situated at the juncture of two Outstanding Florida Waters—the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers—accented by vast stretches of marsh grass.

The first European to have seen this point was Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528. In 1679 the Spanish started building the first fort in St. Marks, using logs painted with lime to look like stone, but pirates weren’t fooled by the camouflage. They looted and burned the fort a few years later. Forts in St. Marks were later occupied by Spanish, British, Spanish again, then (for five weeks) by a force seeking to establish “the Nation of Muskogee,” and Spanish yet again, before being taken over for the United States by Andrew Jackson in 1818. The fort passed back into Spanish control one more time before U.S. troops occupied it in 1821. In 1861 it was reoccupied by Confederate troops and named Fort Ward, and became a permanent possession of the United States at the end of the Civil War. Now open to the public as Ft. San Marcos de Apalachee Historical State Park, it features a wonderful museum of exhibits and artifacts, and a well-marked walking trail through the ruins.

Located opposite the Fort is Florida's first designated state trail which follows the abandoned railbed of the historic Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad. The trail runs 16 miles south from Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee, through the Apalachicola National Forest, ending in St. Marks. Through the early 1900s this historic railroad corridor was used to transport cotton from the plantation belt to the docks at St. Marks for shipment to textile mills in England and New England. Today, as a paved trail, it provides an excellent recreational workout for bicyclists, walkers, and skaters. An adjacent unpaved trail also provides opportunities for horseback riding.

St. Marks celebrates its heritage in October with a Stone Crab Festival and reenactment at the Fort.

Other Nearby Destinations: Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail State Park; San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park.

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