Be transported to a different time and place as you paddle Apalachee Bay’s Ten Maritime Heritage Trails. Designed for enthusiasts of all levels, enjoy fishing, wildlife viewing, and photography as you explore one of Florida’s last great bays, its inlets, rivers, and springs. Apalachee is one of the healthiest and most productive bays in the United States, providing a host of ecosystem services to an area that lacks industrial and commercial development. Most of the Bay’s coastline is protected as part of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.
The Bay is bounded by the Ochlockonee River in the west and the Econfina River in the east. Named for the Apalachee Indian nation, Apalachee Bay is in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, occupying an indentation of the Florida coast known as the Big Bend region. It occupies a 412 km2 surface area with an 11,900 km2 drainage area. It is surprisingly shallow, with an average depth of 3.0m. Most trails occur in Wakulla County, between the Waterfront Florida Communities of Panacea in the west and St. Marks in the east and can be completed in 2-3 hours.
Chaires Creek Paddling Trail
Overview: Begin at the Ochlockonee Bay Boat Ramp in Franklin County, located at the south end of the Ochlockonee Bay Bridge. Paddle east along the Bald Point State Park shoreline for 1.7 miles to Chaires Creek. Travel 2 miles up Chaires Creek to reach Tucker Lake. Take out at the landing located on northwest side of Tucker Lake.
Tide Creek Paddling Trail
Overview: Begin at Levy Bay Boat Ramp. Head south through Tide Creek, passing under Mashes Sands Bridge into Ochlockonee Bay. Upon entering the Bay head west, passing under the Ochlockonee Bay Bridge, then cross the Bay (1 mile) to the other side. End at Ochlockonee Bay Boat Ramp in Franklin County.
Mashes Sands Paddling Trail
Overview: Begin at the Wakulla County Park’s Mashes Sands Recreational Facility. Paddle east around the tip of Mash Island, following the shore along the back side. Stop at the broad white sand beach for a rest or picnic. Continue west along shoreline to Levy Bay. End at Levy Bay Boat Ramp.
Levy Bay Loop Paddling Trail
Overview: Begin and end at the Levy Bay Boat Ramp. Follow the shoreline northward to the end of Dickerson Bay. Continue around the shore, following St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge property back into Levy Bay and boat ramp.
Piney Island Loop Paddling Trail
Overview: Begin and end at the Bottoms Road Boat Ramp. Paddle east to circle Piney Island. Stop at Cabbage Palm trees on the north tip for a rest or picnic.
Spring Creek Inside Passage Paddling Trail
Overview: Begin at Bottoms Road Boat Ramp. Paddle north, along the shoreline of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Stop at Skipper Bay to rest or for a picnic. Continue into Oyster Bay toward the town of Spring Creek. Time permitting, paddle up Spring Creek and explore the upwelling springs around town. End at RV Park Boat Landing.
Goose Creek Bay Paddling Trail
Overview: Begin at Shell Point Beach. Paddle east along the shore past Walker Creek and Live Oak Island. Follow the shoreline of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge to explore Goose Creek Bay and creeks. End at Wakulla Beach Boat Ramp.
Indian Point Paddling Trail
Overview: Begin at Wakulla Beach Boat Ramp. Paddle east, behind John’s Island, passing islands topped with Sabal Palms, into the protected waters of Big Pass. Enter the St. Marks River at Indian Point and continue upriver to the city of St. Marks. End at St. Marks Boat Ramp.
Port Leon Loop Paddling Trail
Overview: Begin at the St. Marks Riverfront Park and Boat Ramp. Paddle downstream following the left (east) bank of the river to access Port Leon Creek. Explore this beautiful winding course to the old town of Port Leon. The trail ends where the train trestle spanned the creek, evidenced now by a few remaining trestle ties. Return back to the St. Marks City Boat Ramp to complete the loop trail.
St Marks Lighthouse to Lighthouse Paddling Trail
Overview: Begin at the St. Marks Boat Ramp. Paddle downstream following the left (east) bank passing limestone rock islands and continuous stands of marsh grass bordering the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Stop for lunch or a break at Apalachee Point/Rock Island. Upon entering Apalachee Bay, follow the shoreline to the St. Marks Lighthouse. Take out at the St. Marks Lighthouse parking lot.