St. Marks, Florida - Historic Sites & Points of Interest
St. Marks, Florida - Historic Sites & Points of Interest
St. Marks, Florida
The coastal community of St. Marks is the gateway
to a region noted for its rich history, spectacular
scenic beauty and remarkable natural environment.
St. Marks, Florida
The St. Marks and Wakulla
Rivers flow together at St.
Marks, creating a spot of
stunning natural beauty.
San Marcos de Apalache
The stone ruins of the historic
Spanish fort can still be seen
at San Marcos de Apalache
Historic State Park.
St. Marks, Florida - Historic Sites & Points of Interest
Spanish Port on the Gulf
Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Updated: September 14, 2013
Custom Search
The Big Bend of Florida
St. Marks NWR
The vast marshes and forests
of the St. Marks National
Wildlife Refuge are directly
across the river from the St.
Marks riverfront.
St. Marks Lighthouse
The historic lighthouse has
guided ships into the mouth
of the St. Marks River since
before the Civil War.
St. Marks is one of Florida's most historic
and scenic communities. It is located 20
miles south of
Tallahassee and is the
gateway to the St. Marks National Wildlife

St. Marks traces its recorded history to 1528,
when Panfilo de Narvaez and his force of
Spanish explorers arrived in the vicinity after
a difficult march up the Florida peninsula.

Narvaez and his men built barges near the
mouth of the St. Marks River and sailed away
into the Gulf of Mexico. Most of them, Narveaz
included, were lost at sea. Only four of the
300 men under his command survived the
disastrous expedition.

The men of Hernando de Soto visited St.
Marks eleven years later in 1539. They found
horse bones at the place where Narvaez and
his men had built their barges and hung
banners at the mouth of the St. Marks to alert
their supply ships to their presence. The area
was called Aute at the time.

The present site of St. Marks was the port for
a large part of Florida's Spanish mission
chain. Franciscan friars established
churches and settlements among the
Apalachee Indians who were centered on
present-day Tallahassee during the mid-17th
century.  The waterway formed by the
confluence of the Wakulla and St. Marks
Rivers provided a channel by which goods
and supplies could be imported or exported.

As a result, the site of modern St. Marks
became a well-used port for the missions
and farms of the interior. Grain, beef and
timber were exported, while Spanish ships
brought other necessities into the province.

To protect this port, the Spanish military
returned to St. Marks in 1679. The
fort of San
Marcos de Apalache was built on the point of
land formed by the confluence of the rivers.

The original fort was built of logs and then
plastered to give it the appearance of stone.
The ruse was intended to discourage attack,
but it failed to work against pirates who
sailed into the lower St. Marks and took the
fort in 1682. After pillaging it, they burned it to
the ground.

The fort was replaced and finally the Spanish
began construction of a permanent fortress
of stone to protect the port of San Marcos.
The ruins of this fort can still be seen today.

Spain held San Marcos de Apalache until
1763 when Florida was surrendered to
England at the end of the French & Indian
War. It remained a British possession during
the American Revolution but then was given
back to Spain in 1783. The Spanish had
sided with the United States in the war and
were rewarded with the return of Florida at its

The stone fort was never completed, but did
become an important post of Florida's
second Spanish era. The pirate and
adventurer William Augustus Bowles - called
Billy Bowlegs in North Florida - captured the
fort in 1800, but held it only briefly before the
Spanish took it back.

Eighteen years later in 1818 the United
States seized San Marcos, alleging that the
Spanish had used it as a base of supply for
Seminole and Red Stick Creek warriors
during the First Seminole War. It was called
Fort St. Marks from that point forward.
The First Seminole War figures deeply in the
history of St. Marks. Not only did Andrew
Jackson's army take the fort, but four noted
leaders were captured and executed. Among
these was the noted Creek prophet Josiah
Francis, the Red Stick chief Homathlemico
and the British traders and adventurers
Robert C. Ambrister and Alexander Arbuthnot.

It was also during this period that
Francis, a daughter of the Prophet, saved the
life of an American soldier. She is still known
as the Creek Pocahontas.

Under U.S. control, St. Marks became a
thriving port for Florida's new capital city of
Tallahassee. The town of Port Leon was
established just downstream, but a
hurricane destroyed it in 1842. St. Marks,
however, survived.

One of Florida's first railroads linked the port
to the capital city, providing a bumpy but
speedy way for passengers and cargo to be
moved back and forth. The original rail bed is
now the
Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic
Railroad State Trail, a paved 20 mile path
that is popular for biking and walking.

Confederate troops occupied the old fort
during the War Between the States, using the
stonework to reinforce new earthworks. It
never fell to Union forces, despite two
attempts to take it.  The largest of these failed
at the nearby
Battle of Natural Bridge in 1865.

St. Marks today is a charming community
known for its seafood, beautiful scenery and
rich history.  It is the gateway to the
St. Marks
National Wildlife Refuge and home to the
San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park.

To reach St. Marks from Tallahassee, take
Woodville Highway (SR 363) south for 17.2
miles until it dead-ends in the center of town!
Access by bike is also available via the State

For more information on points of interest,
please follow these links:
Trains to Bikes & Hikes
The Tallahassee-St. Marks
Historic Railroad State Trail is
a 20.5 mile paved path that
follows the bed of one of
Florida's oldest railroads.