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Featured National Recreation Trails

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Every kind of trail activity is represented in the listing of designated NRTs. Besides hiking and bicycling, the system includes water trails, motorized routes, snow tracks, greenways, and equestrian paths. The NRT program showcases the diversity of trails across America, from our cities and suburbs to the deserts, waterways, and high mountains.

 

Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail - Florida

Sixteen miles of the rail trail are managed by the Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Greenways & Trails. It runs due south from the main Tallahassee trailhead near Capital Circle (US 319) southeast, to the coastal town of St. Marks.

 

Florida Map

photo of runner on trail bridge

On the Blackwater Heritage State Trail (photo by John Moran)

 

The Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail, managed by the Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Greenways & Trails (OGT), runs 16 miles from Florida’s capital city to the coastal town of St. Marks. An additional 4.5 miles of trail north of Capital Circle is maintained by the City of Tallahassee. The paved trail provides an excellent workout for bicyclists, walkers and skaters and features a Boundless Playground®. The trail also offers opportunities for horseback riding on the adjacent unpaved trail and access to the Munson Hills Off-Road Trail in the Apalachicola National Forest. The trail is a completed section of the developing 120-mile “Capital City to the Sea Loop” and is a destination along the “Big Bend Scenic Byway.”

The Florida Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (Trustees) holds fee simple title to the property. The property is leased to OGT through December 15, 2043. Development for the paving of the trail was funded by the Florida Department of Transportation. Construction of the Wakulla Station Boundless Playground was made possible by a donation from the nature-based Felburn Foundation. "Barrier-free Boundless Playgrounds" enable all children— including those with physical, developmental, cognitive and sensory disabilities—to experience independent, self-directed play. Playground equipment is sensory rich so children with developmental and sensory disabilities can actively and safely play with their peers.

photo of mothers with strollers

Bicyclists and skaters enjoy the paved trail (photo by John Moran)

The historic significance of the corridor is great. Tallahassee was chosen as the territorial capital in 1824, only three years after Florida’s acquisition from Spain. Within one year, the town grew from six private homes to over one hundred, as the fertile Apalachee old fields attracted many settlers. As early as 1826, a road was under construction from Tallahassee to the St. Marks River where the closest navigable water access to the Gulf of Mexico was available. Because the wagon road was through deep sand, efforts began to construct a railroad to the town of St. Marks. There the deep “Spanish Hole,” at the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers, allowed large ships to be moored even at low tide.

In 1831, the Tallahassee Railroad Company received the first Congressional Land Grant ever given to a railroad. The grant included the privilege of using timber from public lands, the rail corridor and land for a terminal where the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers join. The original right of way was a minimum of 60 feet wide and 23 miles long. Both slaves and free laborers cleared land and constructed the track which was composed of two, side-by-side longitudinal timbers, eight feet in length and five feet apart, with 2-¼ inch wide by ½ inch thick iron straps nailed across the top.

The first train traversed the railroad in 1836 and the railroad had regular business by 1837. By 1839, a bridge, with two openings and built according to the lattice design, was completed and the train crossed the St. Marks River to Port Leon, a new town two miles south of St. Marks. Within five years, a hurricane destroyed the town, the railroad bridge was swept upstream, and the railroad terminus was again located at St. Marks, which became a marine gateway to the world for well over a hundred years. The Railroad was critical to shipping materials from all of central Florida and southern Georgia.

photo of bikes on trail

On the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail
(photo by John Moran)

This railroad stimulated the region’s development and settlement by transporting goods— including cotton, turpentine, and timber— to Apalachee Bay for shipment. During the Civil War, the railroad transported troops and materials, playing a crucial role in the Confederacy’s victorious Battle of Natural Bridge in 1865. The Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad was active longer than any other in Florida— operating for 146 years from 1836 to 1983.

The trail is a completed section of the developing 120-mile “Capital City to the Sea Loop” corridor and is a destination along the “Big Bend Scenic Byway.” The trail provides a scenic experience for over 220,000 annual visitors. Equestrian riders can enjoy the adjacent unpaved trail. An additional 4.5 miles of trail north of the Capital Circle (US 319) trailhead is maintained by the City of Tallahassee.

Approximately 1.25 miles south of the main trailhead, outdoor enthusiasts can bike or hike the Munson Hills Trail in the Apalachicola National Forest. The Apalachicola National Forest is the largest National Forest in Florida and hosts the largest red-cockaded woodpecker population in the world. The barrier-free Felburn Foundation Boundless Playground at the Wakulla Station Trailhead is designed to give children of all abilities the opportunity to learn and play freely together.

At the southern end of the trail, visitors can enjoy seafood dining and entertainment in the coastal community of St. Marks and learn about the history of the area at San Marcos de Apalachee Historical State Park.

For more information:

Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail
3900 Commonwealth Blvd. MS 795 Tallahassee, Florida 32301
Phone: 850-245-2081
http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/state/marks/default.htm

Friends of the St. Marks Trail
1022 DeSoto Park Drive, Tallahassee, Florida 32301


trail noteWe frequently add NRT information, photos and maps to these pages. Send suggestions and information requests to American Trails. Research additional NRTs in the NRT database. Trail managers can update online trail information in the NRT database. You may also e-mail information on minor changes or to update Featured NRT pages.

 

 

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