By Cristi McKee
As the capital of Florida, Tallahassee is most known for the government buildings it is home to, like the “old” and “new” capitol buildings, the Florida Supreme Court, and the Florida Department of Education. What many don’t know is that Tallahassee and its surrounding communities are actually home to numerous historical, unique and expansive state parks. From sites of Florida Civil War battles to ancient Indian burial grounds, one of these state parks is sure to catch your eye. Take a look at this list of every state park in (or around), Tallahassee.
Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park — This piece of Tallahassee history is now a state park here in town. With two independent trails to hike and areas to picnic at, Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park is home to six of the seven known earthen temple mounds, with two available for viewing. It also offers an ideal space for nature viewing, bird watching, and exploring.
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park — A classic Tallahassee park to visit for tourists and residents alike, this local Florida state park offers beautiful gardens, a lake that lends itself to kayaking and boating, walking trails, and spots to picnic at. Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park is a family-friendly park that is a relaxing place to spend the day at.
Natural Bridge Battlefield State Park — This historic state park is an important piece of Florida history. Natural Bridge is the site of the second largest Civil War battle in Florida and is home to a monument that honors the Confederate soldiers who defended Natural Bridge during this war. It is also the location where the St. Marks River drops into a sinkhole where it temporarily flows underground before reemerging. This state park offers biking and walking spots and guided tours by request.
DeSoto Site Historic State Park — Also called De Soto Winter Encampment Site Historic State Park, this state park is the only documented site that conquistador Hernando de Soto and his army visited. On site, there are several historical artifacts and a museum you can visit to learn more about this Spanish conquistador and his travels.
Lake Talquin State Park — Lake Talquin State Park overlooks the southern shore of Lake Talquin and offers visitors freshwater fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, walking, and biking trails, and a picnicking area. Bear sightings have been reported here, and the park is a great spot to animal-watch, relax, and enjoy a peaceful walk on interpretive trails.
Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park — Housing the “largest and deepest freshwater spring rimmed by an ancient cypress swamp,” this state park, located in Wakulla Springs, FL, about 11 miles from Tallahassee, offers manatee sightings, swimming in cold, clear springs, boat rides and tours of the park, and walking/hiking trails. The park also offers lodging and dining and opportunities to walk on the same ground that ancient Native Americans and mastodons once roamed.
St. Marks River Preserve State Park — Not the be confused with the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, St. Marks River Preserve State Park is found along the banks of the St. Marks River in Leon County. With hiking, walking, biking, and equestrian trails, this state park also lends itself to animal watching, but currently offers no amenities on park grounds.