Location: St. Marks, Florida
Webpage: Florida State Park
Description: At the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla rivers in the Gulf of Mexico, San Marcos de Apalache has a long history from 1679 to 1865. It’s history began with Spanish explorers Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528 and later in 1539 by Hernando de Soto. The Spanish built a wooden fort at the site in 1679 where it stood for 3 years until it was looted and burned by pirates. They constructed another wooden fort in 1718 and began the first stone fort in 1739. This fort was only half completed when Florida was given to the English in 1763 in the Treaty of Paris (I guess it can take a long time to build a stone fort) at the end of the French and Indian War. By 1787 the Spanish has regained control of the fort as part of the concession from the new United States to Spain. In 1800 William Augustus Bowles led the Creek and Seminole Indians in a revolt against the Spanish and captured San Macros which he held for a month. Andrew Jackson briefly held the fort in 1818 during the First Seminole War and in 1821 Florida was ceded to the United States and U.S. troops occupied the fort. In 1824 the fort was abandoned and turned over to the Territory of Florida. In 1839 the fort the federal government regained the fort and stones were used to build a federal marine hospital against the Yellow Fever epidemic. In 1861 Confederate soldiers occupied the location building earthwork fortifications at the site and renaming it Fort Ward. The Union blockaded the St. Marks river throughout the Civil War, but only attempted to capture the fort in 1865 when the flotilla ran aground at Port Leon. Bypassing the fort the Union forces attempted to capture Tallahassee but were repulsed by Confederate troops at Natural Bridge.
1) The State Park is a beautiful park right on the Gulf where the St. Marks and Wakulla rivers make a natural peninsula. The grounds are beautifully maintained and the visitor center in the remains of the fort provides details about the long history of the fort. They have also created a unique interpretive movie with actors portraying the main characters throughout history to provide a good sense of the many conflicts that occurred at this site.
2) There is a short (less than 0.5 mile) interpretive walk around the fort with multiple stops pointing features of interest including the early fort locations, stone foundations of the Spanish bombproof, Spanish moat, foundations of the Marine Hospital, and Confederate gun position and breastworks.
3) You could easily spend the afternoon in this beautiful location and you should plan at least 2-3 hours to tour the fort and grounds.