Monarch Butterfly migration is underway and can be seen at St Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida. Last week’s cold front pushed the temperatures into the lower 40’s in Florida’s Panhandle and it brought the beginnings of the annual migrating Monarch Butterflies. Monarch Butterflies from the Midwest and lower Canada are migrating butterflies that make the journey to Mexico each year where they winter in the tropical climates and return during the spring. St Marks NWR is on their annual fall migration route and can support the thousands that come through with its vast array of wildflowers that bloom inland and along the estuary.
Although butterflies are scattered throughout the refuge as fields of golden rod provide an abundant source of nectar, the best place to view the Monarchs is along the one half mile Levee trail just west of the Historic St Marks Lighthouse. The Levee trail is lined with Salt Bush, also known as Sea Myrtle, whose small white flowers bloom in October just in time for the Monarchs. This modest Florida native coastal plant produces enough nectar to support thousands of butterflies over a few weeks making St Marks a critical stop for the Monarchs as they refuel before continuing on with their journey.
Each year St Marks NWR hosts a Monarch Butterfly Festival at the Visitors Center with bus tours, booths, and demonstrations on tagging and tracking the butterflies. This festival is held the 4th Saturday each year in October.
Enjoy touring the Historic St Marks Lighthouse, which was originally built at the mouth of the St Marks River and was later moved to its current location in 1842 after a devastating hurricane. There are also several hiking trails that can be accessed off Lighthouse road including the mounds trail, the National Scenic Florida trail and some primitive hiking trails that allow the hiker to experience the prairies. Click here for maps of the hiking trails in St Marks NWR.