Friday, October 19, 2007

San Marcos De Apalache / St Marks

We found a real nice RV/Fishing camp in Econfina, and planned on resting up for three days, right on the river, a couple of large ponds with a few small gators floating around, covered pool, well that was the plan until we found out that the San Marcos de Apalache National Historical Site was near by, so much for relaxing. After an eleven-mile drive through what you would swear was the Everglades we found the town of St Marks and the history behind it.

San Marcos De Apalache.
The first Spanish explorers arrived in this area in 1528 but were soon forced from the area by the native Indians, a few years later in 1539 Hernando de Soto returned with 600 men pasted through this area.
In 1679 at the junction of the St Marks and Wakulla rivers the Spanish returned and built a fort made of logs and covered with lime to make it look like stone, this deception kept the pirates away for three years thinking that the stone fort
was too strong to attack before they learned the truth and looted and burnt the fort.

This area passed between the Spanish, British and Americans until 1821 when the Florida Territory was ceded to the US and US troops were sent to occupy the stone fort, which now stood there (built by the Spanish in the mid 1700's).
The importance of this area is that it was the port for supplies coming in and out of Florida, a railroad had been built between the nearby Town of St. Marks and Tallahassee. Later the large stones from the fort were dismantled and the used to build a marine hospital to help combat yellow fever. The foundation remains and is now used by the modern Visitors Center. In other areas along a marked walking trail there are the remnants of the fort built by the Spanish in the mid 1700's. The grounds are open everyday but the Visitors Center is closed Monday and Tuesday, they have a great 20-minute film that really explains the history importance of this area.
At the start of the Civil Was the Confederates took control of this area and what was left of the fort, renaming it Fort Ward.

The next day it was another journey to find the mouth of the St Marks River at the Gulf of Mexico and St. Marks Lighthouse and Wildlife Preserve. The lighthouse is a large brick structure that was built in 1829. During the Civil War the Confederates used the lighthouse as a lookout to watch the Unions blockade ships and raiding parties. One of these raiding parties was able to fight off the Confederate troops and set fire to the wooden interior staircase of the lighthouse thus preventing it from being used as lookout any more. This helped the Union in landing troops for the Battle of Natural Bridge which took place just south of Tallahassee, but that's another story. PS the Confederates won.

They have a lot of trails through this area and we took a short one along the water, the first thing we discovered was that the trail near the water was covered with thousands of Fiddler Crabs, as soon as we would get close they would start to run for cover, it looked like the entire beach was moving and the sound from their shells bumping together sounded just like rain. After about a half mile walk down the beach we started to return and noticed and a few hundred birds were walking down the beach where we had just been, as we got closer they took off and we found the killing fields of the Fiddler Crabs, all that was left was bird tracks in the sand and the large claws of the Fiddler Crab. Oh! The humanity of it all, Oh! The humanity.

After recovering from this terrible site we took the Levee trail, which followed the coast, but in the other direction, it just so happens that this is the start of the Monarch Butterfly migration, every fall the butterflies head to an area in southern Mexico to spend the winter. They mass up on the gulf coast to feed and get ready for there flight across the gulf to Mexico, the bushes were covered with bright orange a yellow butterflies and everyone there was taking the worlds greatest butterfly picture, including me.
OK! So it's one day of rest before we enter Central Florida.

This thing is called a Georgia Thumper, the told us that they were a little small this year because of the drought. It's on a 2x4 so you can see how big it really is.

Click on a picture to enlarge

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