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Big Bend Scenic Byway

Approximately 220 miles in length, the Big Bend Scenic Byway can be accessed from Apalachicola in the west, Tallahassee Regional Airport in the north, or Newport in the east. It includes SR 65 from the Franklin/Liberty County Line to US 98/SR 30 at the coast. At this point, it spurs to the west on US 98 to include Apalachicola. Returning east on US 98, another spur includes St. George Island via South Bayshore Dr. to SR 300 and CR 300 to St. George Island State Park, returning to US 98 via SR 30. From here the corridor travels eastward along the coast to Carrabelle, then follows the harbor on Marine St., returning to US 98 via CR 30A. The Byway continues east on US 98 through St. Teresa, Panacea, Medart, and Newport. This segment features two spurs, south on SR 363 to St. Marks and south on CR 59 to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse. From Newport, the corridor forms a loop: northwest on SR 267/CR 2203, north on SR 263, west on SR 20, south on CR 375 to Sopchoppy, then south on CR 299 to US 319 until it connects once more with US 98 at the coast.


America's ByWays

Big Bend Scenic Byway

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Coastal Trail East

Our journey begins in southeastern Wakulla County near the town of Newport. The spur route on CR 59 passes through the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge to the historic St. Marks Lighthouse on scenic Apalachee Bay. Recreational activities include fishing and birding at Refuge ponds along the road, hiking numerous nature trails, including the Florida National Scenic Trail, and photographing the scenery at viewing platforms. The drive is enlivened in spring and fall with a profusion of wildflowers that line the route. Visitors are also treated to legendary migrations of waterfowl, as well as Monarch and other butterflies in the fall.

Returning to the Byway on SR 30/US 98 traveling west, visitors will see the Wakulla County Newport Park with a boat launch and boardwalk on the St. Marks River. After crossing the river, the Byway winds through hardwood forests draped in Wisteria to Port Leon Drive (SR 363). This spur route takes visitors to the City of St. Marks and San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park. A well-marked trail with an informative brochure leads visitors on a journey through the historic fortification ruins. A Visitor Center containing exhibits and artifacts covering the area’s history is built on the foundation of an old marine hospital. Located nearby is an attractive canoe and boat launch, picnic pavilion, and the trailhead for the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail.

Returning to the Byway on SR 30/US 98, the corridor passes through wooded countryside, crossing the Wakulla River. Canoe and kayak rentals are available at the southeast side of the bridge. The Wakulla River, which originates at Wakulla Springs, flows south for about ten miles before joining the St. Marks River near Fort San Marcos. The crystal-clear waters make it a popular place for swimming, boating, and fishing. Wildlife-viewing opportunities include West Indian manatees, turtles, alligators, and a wide variety of birds and plants.

The route continues through wooded countryside passing Wildwood Golf and Country Club, and Medart Recreation Park, with ballfields, basketball courts, a children’s playground. This portion of the Byway is planted with native wildflowers that bloom during spring and fall.

Just past the red brick Wakulla High School, the Byway joins Crawfordville Highway (SR 377/US 319) at the community of Medart. The route passes vegetable stands, a sugar cane field, and several houses dating from the early 1900s, before entering the Panacea Unit of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Located within the Panacea Unit is the Otter Lake Recreation Area and Bottoms Road, a dike road through Dickerson Bay offering fantastic marsh views and birding. After entering the City of Panacea, visitors will want to stop first at the Wakulla County Welcome Center. Perched on pilings overlooking Dickerson Bay, the Center offers sweeping views of the surrounding marshland and coastline, and houses old photographs, artifacts, artwork, educational displays, and tourist information. Directly across the road is the Panacea Mineral Springs. Woolley Park, which has a children’s playground, walking trail, parking, and fishing pier, lies just off the Byway. Both the Big Bend Maritime Center and Gulf Specimen Aquarium are worth the stop.

Traveling south from Panacea, the Byway offers sweeping vistas of roadside ponds and coastal marshes alive with wildlife, including Bald Eagles, Osprey, and numerous Herons. Entering the Community of Ochlockonee Bay, visitors will see the Wakulla County Regional Airport, with a grass runway for small planes and during the summer offers airplane rides and skydiving. From here visitors can visit Mashes Sands Recreation Area, a nice place to view Apalachee Bay, watch dolphins, cast for mullet and, at low tide, walk the sandbars to see a great variety of shorebirds, including Black skimmers. The Byway continues across the Ochlockonee Bay Bridge, which offers sweeping water views of Ochlockonee Bay, as it enters Franklin County. The turnoff to Alligator Point and Bald Point State Park is approximately one mile ahead. Activities include birding, picnicking, swimming, beachcombing, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, and hiking. The park has two beaches, a fishing dock, picnic pavilions, restrooms, hiking trails, and a handicapped-accessible boardwalk with interpretation.

Continuing on the Byway, visitors will catch their first glimpses of the Alligator Harbor Aquatic Preserve with Alligator Point in the background. Here Leonard’s Landing, a small waterside pull-off and boat launch, features a roadside kiosk with information on clam farming and seagrass beds. The Byway continues past St. Teresa, a traditional seaside community adjacent to Alligator Harbor. The corridor passes numerous lily-clad ponds, the St. Joe development of SummerCamp, and the Florida State University Marine Laboratory, which was constructed in 1968 to facilitate study of the coastal environment.

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Coastal Trail Central

Continues west on Coastal Highway with views of beach houses, seagrass beds, and the Alligator Harbor Aquatic Preserve, St. James Bay Golf Course, and Lanark Village, a retirement community with a small golf course that is also open to the public. Many of the homes in Lanark were originally officers’ quarters for Camp Gordon Johnston during World War II. Lanark once boasted a mineral springs and a luxurious resort, the Lanark Springs Hotel. Reportedly, the springs became plugged and locals decided to clear them out with dynamite. Instead of opening the springs, the blast, unfortunately, collapsed the source. The hotel later burned down.

Across from Lanark is Lanark Reef. Best viewed at low tide, the reef is a nesting site and a feeding ground for Terns and many shore birds. Franklin County maintains a boat launch here for direct access to Dog Island and the reef, highly prized for Tarpon fishing. The route continues along the water, passing a Forest Service fire tower, which is the future location of a trailhead for the GF&A Bike Trail running from Leon County south through Sopchoppy to the Gulf. The Byway continues along the water past wetlands that serve as a rookery for wading birds. This route enters the City of Carrabelle along Marine Street, with a harbor walk, waterfront pavilion, and the Camp Gordon Johnston Museum. The Byway rejoins SR 30/US 98 and continues west, passing the World’s Smallest Police Station before crossing over the Carrabelle River, offering breathtaking views of St. George Sound and Carrabelle Harbor.

The Byway continues along St. George Sound, passing Carrabelle Beach, popular for shelling, swimming, volley ball, and surf fishing, and the Crooked River Lighthouse. At Tate’s Hell State Forest, visitors can hike the High Bluff Coastal Trail, a one-mile loop through coastal scrub habitat unique to this coastline. The route soon crosses Yent Bayou, a scenic stream winding through marsh grass into the Gulf of Mexico. Slow down, because black bears are frequently seen along this stretch of the Byway. The next few miles offer great views of St. George Sound and St. George Island in the distance.

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Coastal Trail West

The Byway continues west to Eastpoint, a commercial fishing village with processing plants, docks, seafood markets, and restaurants stretching the length of town along St. George Sound. Visitors will notice huge piles of oystershells and wooden oyster boats tied behind processing plants, denoting the role of Oystermen in the region.

The route follows the water past several typical seafood houses and the Marion Millender Site, a lovely shaded picnic area on St. George Sound. From here it is only a short distance to the St. George Island Bridge Fishing Pier, which is a remnant of the old bridge that was completed in 1965. Crossing the newly-constructed Bryant Patton Bridge to St. George Island, affords visitorssweeping water views and a chance to watch oystermen in their boats “tonging” for oysters.

St. George Island is a 28-mile barrier island with some of the most beautiful and serene beaches in the United States. The island has an extensive residential community, as well as bike and kayak rentals and a bike trail. The Byway travels along Gulf Beach Drive with good views of the Gulf of Mexico to St. George Island State Park. The park’s beaches have been rated among the best in the United States. Activities include birding, swimming, fishing, boating, hiking, biking, camping, and nature study. Facilities include picnic shelters, restrooms, picnic tables, a boat ramp, and a camp ground.

From here, the Byway doubles back across the bridge to the mainland. Once off the bridge, the route turns west on South Bayshore Drive, then crosses the John Gorrie Bridge to Apalachicola. Visitors have an excellent view of the famous Apalachicola Bay and River from the bridge.

The City of Apalachicola, a designated Waterfronts Florida Community, has an exceptionally rich history and its maritime culture reflects the area’s bountiful natural resources. Visitors can stroll past beautiful Victorian homes or spend time browsing through unique galleries, stores, and antique shops. The Historic District boasts over 200 historically significant homes and commercial structures around town. The Welcome Center offers tourist materials and walking maps of the district. Another noteworthy stop is the John Gorrie State Park and Orman House State Park.

The Coastal trail ends at the Scipio Creek Marina, a picturesque facility full of green net-draped Shrimp Boats. The marina also provides access to two resources—the St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center and, at the opposite end of the marina, the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center.

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Forest Trail East

The Forest Trail from Newport on SR 267 is wooded and lined with flowering magnolia and dogwood trees in spring. The route crosses the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail, which can be accessed at a nearby trailhead. After passing a scenic freshwater stream, McBride Slough, visitors reach the entrance to Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park and Lodge, with a full service lodge, gift shop, hiking trails, diving platform, swimming area, horse trails, interpretive exhibits, picnic areas, restrooms, and showers. Wakulla Springs and nearby Cherokee Sink, a beautifully restored sinkhole lake, are both examples of Karst Topography.

Wakulla State Forest is located directly opposite the entrance to Wakulla Springs State Park. This is Florida’s newest state forest and it currently is in the planning phase. Continuting west, the Byway passes the Bethel Historic Site, consisting of an old church and cemetery and Camp Indian Springs and then winds through rural countryside lined with fields and homes. At the intersection with Springhill Road (CR 373) and Byway heads north throught the Apalachicola National Forest, the largest of three national forests in Florida and the best remaining example of Longleaf Pine and Wiregrass ecosystem. The roadway first passes through the site of the historic mill town of Helen. The Helen Guard Station, a former Forest Service Work Center, is currently closed to the public, but is also being developed as a trailhead for the GF&A Bike Trail with an interpretive kiosk. Other recreation sites include Trout Pond and Lost Lake, where bike enthusiasts can access trails through the sandhills along the Munson Hills Bike Trail.

The trail turns west on Capital Circle SW (SR 263), passing the Tallahassee Regional Airport. This attractive Regional Airport has an Airport Gallery on the main floor, which features Big Bend artists and subject matter and an Aviation Museum on the second floor.

Visitors may wish to follow signs to the Tallahassee Museum to learn about the rich history and natural beauty of the Big Bend region and Mission San Luis de Apalache, a beautiful 60-acre archaeological park, which was the site of a 17th century Spanish mission and government seat for Western Florida.

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Forest Trail Central

From here the Byway continues west on Blountstown Highway (SR 20), bordered by the Apalachicola National Forest and Lake Talquin State Forest, with access to Silver Lake Recreation Area, Fort Braden Trails, Coe’s and William’s Landings, and Lake Talquin State Park’s River Bluff Picnic Site.

The route passes the historic Fort Braden School, which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Visitors may wish to get one last view Lake Talquin from Luther Hall Landing County Park, which is perched high on a hill overlooking the lake.

Reentering the Apalachicola National Forest, a sign marks the site of the Vinzant Riding Trail, which offers over 30 miles of wooded countryside to explore. The Byway then follows CR 375 south. This section is bordered by the Ochlockonee River as it passes through the central portion of the Apalachicola National Forest. At Rocky Bluff Scenic Area, visitors can hike among some of the largest old-growth trees of the Byway.

The first recreational facility along the route is Pine Creek Landing, which offers a great view of the Ochlockonee River, with picnic facilities, primitive camping, and a boat launch. Visitors then pass through the rural Community of Smith Creek, comprising a picturesque cluster of old barns and homes, a cemetery, and one-room schoolhouse. Just off the Byway is Jack Langston’s Fish Camp and Landing, with original fishing cabins and a great view of the Ochlockonee River.

Spring and fall are particularly beautiful seasons along this portion of the Byway. The roadsides are filled with wildflowers and frequented by varieties of beautiful butterflies. Here the Byway passes through acres of Longleaf Pine and Wiregrass habitat. Black trunks of the trees denote the use of Prescribed Fire as a management tool and white bands on mature Longleaf Pine trees indicate Red-cockaded Woodpecker nests.

About one mile from Smith Creek, FR 13 crosses the Byway to Two Rivers Bridge, offering sweeping views of the Ochlockonee River and the floodplain swamp dominated by Tupelo Gum Trees. The bridge also serves as the route for the Florida Scenic Trail, with a trailhead at Porter Lake, an ANF facility on the western end of the bridge. The bridge is also an excellent area for birdwatching. The next ANF facility along the Byway is Mack Landing, with camping, boat launch, picnic tables, restrooms, and fishing.

As the route continues southward, the Apalachicola National Forest gives way to gently rolling hills with fields and farms. Some nine miles from the Mack Landing turnoff, the Byway crosses the Sopchoppy River and enters the charming Town of Sopchoppy, which boasts the 1893 GF&A Railroad Depot , a small historic district, outfitters, and shops. Nearby sites to visit include Myron B. Hodge City Park, a 35-acre park located on the banks of the pristine Sopchoppy River and Canoe Trail, with camping facilities, ballfield, one-room schoolhouse and log cabin, and boardwalk, as well as the Historic Sopchoppy High School and Gymnasium.

Doubling back, the route follows the left fork over the river on CR 22, then Curtis Mill Road (CR 299) reentering the Apalachicola National Forest with access to Wood Lake, and then winds through wooded countryside, until reaching the Sopchoppy Highway (SR 377/US 319). The route turns south past the Ochlockonee River State Park, with interpretive kiosks, picnic shelters, boat launch, canoe rentals, and hiking trails.

Continuing south the Byway crosses the Ochlockonee River Bridge, leaving Wakulla County and entering St. James Island in Franklin County. At low tide, visitors can still see the remains of the Old McIntyre Ferry lying partially submerged against the southwest bank of the river. McIntyre was a turn-of-the-century logging town and mid-way stop for the GF&A railroad line from Tallahassee to Carrabelle. The first intersection with Rio Vista Road provides access to the Cow Creek, a beautiful stream that meanders past old-growth Cypress and banks lined with Wild Rice. Travelers might also see White Squirrels that were brought to the Breakaway Lodge, a hunting and fishing lodge built in 1938. In 1942, St. James Island was commandeered to serve as Camp Gordon Johnston, an amphibious landing training site for the invasion of Normandy. Army Generals George Patton and Mark Clark stayed in the Breakaway Lodge and are reported to have planned the Normandy Invasion sitting on the Lodge’s screen porch overlooking the Ochlockonee River.

The final segment passes Pine plantations and a Forest Service Fire Tower. This area is frequented by Black Bear and other wildlife, so drive slowly.

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Forest Trail West

This section of the Forest Trail begins on SR 65 in Franklin County and continues 25 miles to the north, terminating at the Liberty County line. The Trail follows the Apalachicola River and is bordered by public lands—Tate’s Hell State Forest, Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area, and the Apalachicola National Forest. Visitors will wan to stop at the Ralph Kendrick Dwarf Cypress Dome, which offers excellent interpretation of the unique ecosystem, a boardwalk, and an observation tower.

The first creek the route passes is Cash Creek with a boat launch on the east side of the road. The magnificent views in both directions from the bridge are well worth the entire drive. The second and third creeks in succession are Whiskey George (which has a handicapped-accessible landing) and Doyle Creek and Landing.

As the Byway enters the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area, visitors will want to follow signs to the Sand Beach Recreation Area, a beautiful Cabbage Palm hammock with an outstanding view of the Apalachicola River and floodplain forest. Facilities include an information kiosk, picnic tables, nature trail, dock, and observation tower.

Continuing north, the Byway passes Graham Creek & Landing. The train trestle and tracks along the roadway belong to the Apalachicola Northern Railroad. Here the Byway enters the Apalachicola National Forest. The terrain here shifts to more open savannahs, sub-tropical grasslands scattered with Longleaf Pine trees and covered with drought-resistant undergrowth. They form an open landscape where Wiregrass covers the forest floor. Much of the soil is sandy and often wet. Wildflowers such as Orchids, Pitcher Plants, and Sundews flourish, making the savannahs some of the most botanically rich areas in the country.

A major attraction on this route, Fort Gadsden Historic Site, is located is three miles west of the Byway on FR 129 (a graded dirt road. Facilities include an information kiosk with historic dioramas depicting early settlements and major battles, picnic tables, nature trail, shelter, and restrooms. Activities include hiking, picnicking, wildlife observation, photography, and fishing.

There are two other distinctive Apalachicola National Forest facilities along this route: Hickory Landing with camping, picnic tables, restrooms, drinking water, boat landing, and fishing and hiking trails; and Wright Lake with camping, picnic tables, trailer space and dump station, restrooms, showers, fishing, swimming, hiking, and nature trails. Wright Lake is handicapped-accessible and both facilities have entrance fees. The Byway ends at the old town of Sumatra. Just before reaching the town is the Sumatra Cemetery, which has gravestones from the Civil War.

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America's ByWays

Big Bend Scenic Byway

Wakulla County
http://www.wakullacountytdc.com/

Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce
http://www.apalachicolabay.org/

Tallahassee Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
http://www.visittallahassee.com/

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
http://www.fws.gov/saintmarks/

Carrabelle Area Chamber of Commerce
http://www.carrabelle.org/

Apalachicola National Forest
http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/florida/

America's ByWays

Big Bend Scenic Byway

Nature

Apalachicola National Forest (ANF). The largest of the three National Forests located in Florida, the ANF covers 569,804 acres between Tallahassee and the Apalachicola River. When established in 1936, the land had been devastated by logging. Today this is one of the best remaining examples of the native Longleaf Pine/Wiregrass ecosystem. The upland parts of the forest are covered by stands of Longleaf and Slash Pine. Wet lowlands are covered by trees such as Oak, Southern Magnolia, and Cypress. The savannahs, located in the western portion of the forest, are sub-tropical grasslands. Much of the soil is sandy and often wet. Wildflowers such as Orchids, Pitcher Plants, and Sundews flourish, making the savannahs some of the most botanically rich areas in the country. More than 300 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians make the Apalachicola National Forest their home. The ANF also contains the largest population of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker in the United States. Contact: 850/926-3561; http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/florida/apalachicola/

St. Marks Unit, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Covering more than 68,000 acres of land and 31,000 acres of bay, the Refuge is internationally recognized for its more than 300 species of birds. Excellent birding at Refuge ponds along the road. Outstanding nature trails and viewing platforms. Excellent migratory waterfowl viewing in fall and winter months. Wildflowers in spring and fall plus Monarch and other butterfly migration in fall. Visit the Nature Center first for information and to check the daily bird sightings for unusual species. Contact: 850/925-6121; www.fws.gov/saintmarks

Panacea Unit of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. This Unit is largely dominated by uplands pine and oak forests with several fresh water lakes interspersed. Primitive walking trails crisscross this unit, which is open to quota-hunts during the fall and winter months. Otter Lake Recreation Area offers picnic tables and shelters, restrooms, and a launching point for small boats. About 6.5 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail traverses this unit of the Refuge. Contact: 850/925-6121; www.fws.gov/saintmarks

Bald Point State Park. Some of the most picturesque areas along the North Florida Gulf Coast can be found at this park, one of the newest additions to the award-winning Florida Park System. Located on Alligator Point where Ochlockonee Bay meets Apalachee Bay, Bald Point offers a multitude of land and water activities. Coastal marshes, pine flatwoods, and oak thickets foster a diversity of biological communities that make the park a popular destination for birding and wildlife viewing. Every fall, Bald Eagles, other migrating raptors, and Monarch Butterflies are commonly sighted here as they head south for the winter. A surprising site, you might see Black Bears, Sea Turtles, and Alligators sharing the same stretch of beach…watch for tracks!
Contact: 850/349-9146; www.floridastateparks.org

Tate’s Hell State Forest. This is one continuous tract of land comprising over 185,000 acres. Conquering this wet and seemingly unproductive area for timber production was the focus of the private timber industry from the 1950s to early 1990s. During the 1960s and 1970s, the hydrology of the area was substantially altered in an attempt to establish extensive tracts of pine plantations and to enhance the production of pine timber. These alterations involved clearing of natural forests, construction of roads and associated ditches, followed by the planting of large dense stands of Slash Pine that were fertilized with phosphorus and nitrogen. To protect Apalachicola Bay from the severe freshwater runoff that ensued, the state began repurchasing the majority of the property in 1994 and has continued to acquire additional lands. As a result, Tate’s Hell has now become the largest state forest in Florida. Contact: 850/ 697-3734;
http://www.fl-dof.com/state_forests/tates_hell.html

Ralph Kendrick Dwarf Cypress Dome, Tate’s Hell State Forest. One of the most unique features of this area, the Dwarf Cypress—also known as Bonsai or Hat-Rack Cypress—are found throughout Tate’s Hell, but nowhere more pronounced than in the area of this boardwalk. Many of the trees are more than 300 years old, but they grow to a height of only 6-15 feet. Contact: 850/ 697-3734; http://www.fl-dof.com/state_forests/tates_hell.html

Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area. This is part of a vast ecosystem that begins hundreds of miles away in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia. The 82,554-acre Apalachicola River WEA, which is administered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, contains the largest expanse of floodplain forest in Florida. The floodplain forest of the lower Apalachicola River protects, feeds, and nurtures Apalachicola Bay, the site of Florida’s most productive oyster harvesting. This region is also considered one of the most important bird habitats in the southeastern United States: more than 280 species have been identified in the Apalachicola River WEA. The area lies on the eastern fringe of the Mississippi Flyway and hosts large numbers of birds from both the Midwest and the Atlantic seaboard during migratory periods. Contact: http://myfwc.com/viewing/recreation/wmas/lead/apalachicola-river/

St. George Island State Park. 1,962 acres of long, narrow barrier island, with miles of undeveloped beaches, dunes, and emerald waters provide the perfect setting for a day on the Byway. Few parks offer better opportunities for Gulf Coast shelling. Anglers can fish for Flounder, Redfish, Sea Trout, Pompano, Whiting, and Spanish Mackerel. During spring migration, birders should look for songbirds in the small oaks near the youth camp area restrooms and park campground. Shore birds such as the Snowy Plover, Least Tern, Black Skimmer, and Willet often nest along the park’s sandy shores and grass flats. Watch for Gopher Tortoise near the youth camp area. Sea turtles nest along the park beaches, with Loggerhead Turtles being the most common. There is a display of an oyster boat at the boat launch facility. Contact: 850/927-2111; www.floridastateparks.org/stgeorgeisland

St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge. The Visitor’s Center offers interpretive displays and information on St. Vincent, a remote 12,300-acre barrier island at the west end of Apalachicola Bay. The wildlife refuge contains an 86-acre unit in Franklin County as well as 45-acre Pig Island in St. Joe Bay, Gulf County. St. Vincent is dissected by dune ridges, which are geological records of ancient beaches and fluctuating sea levels over the last 5,000 years. Many of the sand roads follow these ridges extending from east to west the length of the island. The interdune areas vary from freshwater lakes and sloughs to dry upland pine forests. Four miles wide and nine miles long, St. Vincent is larger and wider than most of the northern Gulf Coast barrier islands. Previous owners introduced a variety of exotic wildlife to the island. A population of Sambar Deer, a species of Elk native to Southeast Asia, still roams the island. In 1990, St. Vincent was selected as one of several southeastern coastal islands for the breeding of endangered Red Wolves. An island shuttle service provides transportation to St. Vincent. Contact: 850/653-8808; www.fws.gov/saintvincent

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park & Lodge. Internationally known as one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world, the park is host to an abundance of wildlife, including White-Tailed Deer, Alligators, Suwannee River Cooters, Manatees, Wood Ducks, Anhinga, Yellow-Crowned Night Herons, other birds, and snakes. Daily guided riverboat tours provide a close view of wildlife and glass-bottom boat tours are offered when the water is clear. Swimming is a popular activity during the hot summer months but remember that the water temperature remains a constant 69 degrees year-round! A nature trail offers a leisurely walk along the upland wooded areas of the park. The Wakulla Springs Lodge was built in 1937 by financier Edward Ball and is open year-round. Wakulla Springs State Park and Lodge is listed on the Natural Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Natural Landmark. Contact: 850/224-5950; http://www.floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings

Wakulla State Forest. This is Florida’s newest state forest. It currently is in the planning phase and has no interpretation and few facilities. However, along old roadbeds and fire lanes—by bicycle, horseback, or on foot—visitors can experience first-hand the same natural, untamed resources that early settlers discovered. Contact: 850/ 488-4274; www.fl-dof.com/forest_recreation

Leon Sinks Geological Site, Apalachicola National Forest. 5.9 miles of marked, interpreted trail running past Longleaf Pine forest, Gum Tree swamps, sinkholes, swales, caverns, a natural bridge, streams, and depressions. Excellent presentation of the area’s unique geology known as Karst Topography. This term is applied to terrain in which rain and groundwater have dissolved underlying limestone bedrock over long periods of time, leading to collapsed surface formations, which often are then filled with water. Good variety of trees especially in spring when dogwood and magnolias are in bloom. Contact: 850/926-3561; http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/florida/apalachicola/attractions/geologic.php

Lake Talquin State Forest. Established in 1977, the forest consists of 16,326 acres of flatwoods, rolling uplands, swamps, sand hills, and hardwood trees. This forest has the distinction of offering access to two Outstanding Florida Waters, the Ochlockonee River and Lake Talquin. Contact: 850/488-1871;
http://www.fl-dof.com/state_forests/lake_talquin.html

River Bluff Picnic Site, Lake Talquin State Park – Overlooking Lake Talquin, which is 12,000 acres in size and encompasses 14.5 linear miles of the Ochlockonee River floodplain, the site offers outstanding recreational opportunities. Visitors can catch Large-Mouth Bass, Bream, Shellcracker, and Speckled Perch or enjoy nature walks, picnicking, boating, and canoeing. Nature lovers will find rolling hills and deep ravines with forests of pines and hardwoods where they may sight Turkeys, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, and Deer. Seepage streams emerge from ravine heads and feed into the lake. Contact: 850/922-6007; www.floridastateparks.org/laketalquin

Ochlockonee River State Park. Located near the scenic point where the Ochlockonee and Dead Rivers intersect, the park’s name means “yellow waters,” which describes the mix of brackish, tidal surge, and fresh water emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Trails allow visitors to explore the park and view the diverse wildlife including endangered Red-cockaded woodpeckers, rare White squirrels, and natural communities such as pine flatwoods and oak thickets. A boat ramp provides easy access to the river. Both freshwater and saltwater fish inhabit the waters around the park, including Largemouth bass, Bream, Catfish and Speckled Perch. Contact: 850-962-2771; www.floridastateparks.org/ochlockoneeriver

Sports & Recreation

Fishing. Waters along the Byway are renowned fishing grounds for Grouper, Amberjack, Cobia, Wahoo, Dolphin, Snapper, King, Sea Trout, Flounder, Sheepshead, Redfish, Pompano, and Spanish Mackerel. In season, visitors also dive for Scallops. Byway communities such as St. Marks, Panacea, Carrabelle, Eastpoint, St. George Island, and Apalachicola offer well-equipped marinas, charter boats, and guides for offshore, bay, lake, flats, or upriver fishing. Contact: Area Chambers of Commerce.

Kayaking/Canoeing. Recreational paddling is popular along the St. Marks, Wakulla, Sopchoppy, Ochlockonee, and Apalachicola Rivers. The scenery is breathtaking. You can birdwatch or fish for Large-Mouth Bass, Catfish, Striped Bass, and Bream. Hundreds of miles of scenic natural waterways wind through pristine floodplain forests and intertidal marshes. Contact: 850/488-5520.

The Great Florida Birding Trail. This 2000-mile, self-guided trail is designed to conserve and enhance Florida’s bird habitat by promoting birdwatching activities, conservation education, and economic opportunity. There are 20 sites listed on the Big Bend Scenic Byway (GFBT-Panahandle) that represent excellent birdwatching or bird education opportunities. Contact: 850/488-9478; http://floridabirdingtrail.com/

Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail. Florida’s first designated state trail follows the abandoned railbed of the historic Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad. The Trail runs south from Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee, through the Apalachicola National Forest and ends in the coastal community of St. Marks. It provides an excellent recreational workout for bicyclists, walkers, and skaters. It also provides opportunities for horseback riding on the adjacent unpaved trail. Contact: 850/245-2081; www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/state/marks

Florida National Scenic Trail. This trail leads hikers through Florida’s natural wonders as it meanders 1,300 miles across the state. In 1983, the U.S. Congress designated the Florida Trail as part of the National Trails System, making it one of only eight National Scenic Trails. Marked access points along the Byway include: St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla Beach Road, US 98 in Medart, and CR 375 in the Apalachicola National Forest. Contact: Florida Trail Association, 877-HIKE-FLA, fta@floridatrail.org.

Wildwood Inn, Golf, and Country Club. This 18-hole course is open to the public. Wildwood has a nature-based lodge, restaurant, golf shop, and driving range. Contact: 800/878-1546; www.innatwildwood.com

St. James Bay Golf Club. This 18-hole championship course, designated as an Audubon International Sanctuary, is both challenging and beautiful. Facilities include a restaurant, pro shop, and vacation rentals. Contact: 850-697-9606; http://www.stjamesbay.com/.

Cherokee Sink. A beautifully restored natural geologic formation called a sinkhole lake. There are picnic tables and walkways down to the water. Swimming, SCUBA diving (register in advance at Ranger Station), picnicking, and hiking are allowed. Contact: 850/224-5950; http://www.floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings

Silver Lake, Apalachicola National Forest. The largest recreation area in the Apalachicola National Forest, with large pines and moss-draped Cypress trees creating a beautiful backdrop for the spring-fed lake. Notice a sign by one of the picnic pavilions identifying this as one of the many fine Civilian Conservation Corps projects completed in Florida. Activities include swimming, hiking (including a mile-long interpretive trail), and fishing. Contact: 850/926-3561; http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/florida/apalachicola/attractions/silverLake.php?p=1.1.3.4

Fort Braden Trails, Lake Talquin State Forest. Features picnic facilities, three hiking loops (9 miles total), and two equestrian trails. Each trail explores a range of different ecosystems, offering stunning views of Lake Talquin and opportunities to explore steep slopes and ravines which shelter many rare plants more characteristic of the southern Appalachian region. Contact: 850/488-1871;
http://www.fl-dof.com/state_forests/lake_talquin.html

Munson Hills Bike Trail, Apalachicola National Forest. A challenging 7.5 mile off-road bike trail through rolling sand dunes of the Apalachicola National Forest. These sandhills are associated with a shoreline located here a million years ago. The sandhills form a foundation for a towering longleaf pine forest intermixed with ponds and wetlands. Contact: 850/926-3561; http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/regions/panhandleeast/trails/munson.htm

Luther Hall Landing County Park. This picturesque park, perched on a hill overlooking Lake Talquin, offers hiking, boating, fishing, picnic pavilions, an extensive boardwalk, and boat launch. Contact: 850/488-0221; http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/2599/places/76830/

Vinzant Riding Trail, Apalachicola National Forest. Offering over 30 miles of wooded countryside to explore, the Trail crosses open pinelands interrupted by wet and scenic Titi bays that are studded with a variety of wildflowers. The Trail is even and flat with occasional rises and low wet areas and a stream to cross. Enjoyable for both experienced and beginning horseback riders. Hiking is also permitted. There are private horse rental stables in the area. Contact: 850/926-3561; http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/florida/apalachicola/recreation/ohv.overview.php?p=1.1.3.1

Myron B. Hodge City Park. A 35-acre park located on the banks of the pristine Sopchoppy River. The park features nature trails, boat ramp, fishing dock, boardwalk, gazebo, children’s playground, and picnic pavilions, as well as restored historic Ed Whaley log home and Curtis Mill School. Activities include boating, kayaking, swimming, birdwatching, wildlife viewing, fishing. Contact: 850/962-4611 or 962-3873.

Mashes Sands Recreation Area, Wakulla County Park. A nice place to view Apalachee Bay, watch Dolphins, cast for Mullet and, at low tide, walk the sandbars to see a great variety of shorebirds, including Black Skimmers. Facilities include a sand beach, fishing pier, boat landing, picnic tables, and trailhead for Ochlockonee Bay Trail. The 15-mile Trail, currently under construction, will travel alongside Mashes Sands Road and Surf Road through the Panacea Unit of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge to another trailhead near Sopchoppy. Contact: 850/926-7227

Carrabelle Beach. Located 1.5 miles west of Carrabelle on US 98. Here you may enjoy sunbathing, swimming, volley ball, and surf fishing. Public restrooms and covered picnic areas are available. Stroll along the beach toward town for good shelling and birding. An historic plaque marks the place where amphibious landings were practiced for the invasion of Normandy in WW II. Contact: (850) 697-2585; http://carrabelle.org/things-to-do/beaches/

Museums and Attractions
Tallahassee Museum. Exciting opportunity to learn about the rich history and natural beauty of the Big Bend region. This site combines a natural habitat zoo of indigenous wildlife with a collection of historic buildings, exhibits, and artifacts in a beautiful 52-acre lakeside setting. Among the collection is Bellevue, the 1840s plantation house and home of the great-grandniece of George Washington. Bellevue is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and is an excellent example of mid-19th century plantation “cottage” architecture. Contact: 850/ 576-1636; www.tallahasseemuseum.org

Big Bend Maritime Center. Currently located in Shops by the Bay in Panacea, the Center interprets the maritime practices and heritage of Florida’s Big Bend region, from Apalachicola to Cedar Key. A permanent site for the Center is planned near the existing Woolley Park. Contact: 850/962-7845; www.floridaforesight.org

Camp Gordon Johnston Museum. Dedicated to the heritage of soldiers of World War II, this museum focuses on those who trained for amphibious landings at Camp Gordon Johnston. It includes extensive history of these units as well as a photographic display of the area and life as it existed at the camp. Contact: 850/697-8587; www.campgordonjohnston.com

Nature Center, Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve. Contains extensive displays and information on the estuary that includes the river delta bay. Three tanks include indigenous life from the river, bay, and gulf. A short interpretive nature walk winds through a picturesque wetland. Contact: 850/653-8063;http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/apalachicola

Gulf Specimen Aquarium and Marine Lab. This privately operated 25,000-gallon marine aquarium is a fun experience for the whole family. Open touch tanks provide visitors a close look at the enormous diversity of Big Bend sea life. Contact: 850/984-5297;www.gulfspecimen.org.

World’s Smallest Police Station. Featured on “Real People,” “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” and the “Today Show,” the station is located on the Byway in Carrabelle. In the early 1960s, the police phone was bolted to a building. It was later placed in a phone booth, making it the World’s Smallest Police Station. Contact: 850/697-2585; http://www.carrabelle.org

GF&A Trail and Depot. With a visible railbed through portions of the Byway’s Forest Trail, this is a remnant of the Georgia, Florida, and Alabama Railroad, which was built in 1893. Today, portions of the bed are being converted into hiking and biking trails. The old Depot is in the town of Sopchoppy. Contact: www.wakullacounty.org

Carrabelle Beach. A very nice public facility for sunbathing, swimming, shelling, birdwatching, volley ball, and surf fishing. Public restrooms and covered picnic areas are available. A plaque marks the site as a location where amphibious landings were practiced for WW II Normandy invasion. Contact: 850/697-2585; http://www.carrabelle.org

Historical Sites
Apalachicola Historic District. With over 200 historically significant homes and commercial structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the city of Apalachicola was established in 1831. Shipping cotton was the city’s major industry, and it soon became the third largest port on the Gulf of Mexico. Noteworthy structures include the Chestnut Street Cemetery, Dixie Theatre, Sponge Exchange, and Consulate. Contact: 850/653-9419; www.apalachicolabay.org

Fort San Marcos de Apalache State Historical State Park. The first European known to have seen this point was Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528. In 1679, the Spanish started building the first fort on this site, 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 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. Contact: 850/925–6216; www.floridastateparks.org/sanmarcos

Crooked River Lighthouse. Erected in 1895 on Dog Island to replace the original light, authorities later decided it would be safer to move the lighthouse to its current site on the mainland. The lens was built in 1894 by Henri La Paute in Paris. Current location is a public park where two lightkeepers’ houses once stood. Contact: www.crookedriverlighthouse.org

St. Marks Lighthouse, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. First completed in 1830, and constantly battered by storms and the Civil War, the lighthouse stands today at the entrance to the St. Marks River. Still in operation, the 2,000 candlepower flashing light is visible for 15 miles, shining from the top of the white conical tower, 80 feet above the ground. This is the only lighthouse in Florida with wooden stairs. Contact: 850/925-6121; www.fws.gov/saintmarks

Fort Gadsden Historic Site, Apalachicola National Forest. Called the “Hill of Good Vistas” by the Spanish and “Achackweithle” by Native Americans, this site on the eastern bank of the Apalachicola River—so tranquil in appearance today—was the focus of a series of international conflicts that literally determined the destiny of nations. At various times Prospect Bluff hosted a Spanish settlement, a British Fort, a Negro Fort, and the U.S. Fort Scott and Fort Gadsden. Conflicts involved escaped Negro slaves; Creek, Choctaw, and Seminole Indians; British and American forces; and Confederate and Union troops. This site is a National Historic Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Contact: 850/643-2282; http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/florida/apalachicola/attractions/historic.php?p=1.1.1.2

John Gorrie State Park. Celebrating the local doctor who pioneered the development of artificial ice-making, refrigeration, and air conditioning. Contact: 850-653-9347; www.floridastateparks.org/johngorriemuseum

Orman House State Park. Built in 1838 by Thomas Orman. The wood for this handsome two-story home was cut to measure near Syracuse, New York, and shipped to Apalachicola by sailing vessel around the Florida Keys, then assembled on the bluff overlooking the broad estuary and bay of the Apalachicola River. Contact: 850/653-1209; www.floridastateparks.org/ormanhouse

Natural Bridge Battlefield State Historic Site. Site of the second largest Civil War battle in Florida, which took place where the St. Marks River drops into a sinkhole and flows underground for one-quarter of a mile before reemerging. During the final weeks of the Civil War, a Union flotilla landed at Apalachee Bay, planning to capture Fort Ward (now San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park) and march north to the state capital, Tallahassee. With a timely warning, volunteers from the Tallahassee area—some Confederate soldiers joined by old men and young boys—intercepted the Union forces at Natural Bridge and successfully repelled three major attacks. The Union troops were forced to retreat to the coast and Tallahassee was the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi not captured by the Union. Contact: 850-922-6007; www.floridastateparks.org/naturalbridge

Mission San Luis de Apalache. A beautiful 60-acre archaeological park. The site of a 17th century Spanish mission, San Luis contains archaeological evidence of a Spanish fort, church, and residences, as well as an Apalachee Indian council house (one of the largest historic Native American structures in the southeastern United States, accommodating 2,000-3,000 people) and village. Interpretive displays and programs bring these early settlers to life. Regular tours are provided on weekdays at noon. Contact: 850/245-6406; http://www.missionsanluis.org/

Fort Braden. The Fort was established in 1839 as a military outpost during the Second Seminole War. It now serves as a Community Center. A plaque describes the history of the school, which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Contact: 850/606-2305; www.visittallahassee.com

Sopchoppy High School and Gymnasium. A plaque describes the history and architecture of this site, constructed in 1939 in native limestone by Works Progress Administration (WPA) labor. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is regularly used for musical performances and other public events. Contact: www.wakullacounty.org

Historic Wakulla County Courthouse. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the wooden vernacular-style courthouse in Crawfordville was designed by G. W. Tully and constructed in 1892-93. It is the oldest wood-frame courthouse still in use in Florida. Contact: www.wakullacounty.org