Tuesday, September 11, 2007
St. Marks Lighthouse, Florida
A focal point of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Wakulla County, Florida, the St. Marks Lighthouse has overlooked the waters of Apalachee Bay since 1832.
The tower itself is not open to the public, but visitors are welcome to explore the grounds which provide spectacular views of the lighthouse, the Gulf and the adjacent marshes.
At the time the St. Marks Lighthouse was constructed, St. Marks was an important port city. Florida's first chartered and second constructed railroad connected the port with the new capital city of Tallahassee. Mules originally pulled the cars, but eventually were replaced by locomotives. The lighthouse helped ships navigate their way across the bar and into the narrow channel of the lower St. Marks River.
The tower has survived numerous storms, including an 1840s hurricane that completely destroyed the nearby town of Port Leon. It also survived the Civil War. Confederate forces for a time used the lighthouse as an observation post and constructed a battery called Fort Williams on the grounds. The fort was later abandoned then destroyed by Union forces, who also burned the wooden parts of the lighthouse. No trace of the fort remains today, but the tower was repaired after the war and remains a silent sentinel over the Gulf of Mexico to this day.
In addition to its obvious historic and scenic appeal, the lighthouse is also noted for its annual gatherings of Monarch butterflies, which assemble here to begin their migration across the Gulf of Mexico.
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