[ St. Joseph By State Buffer Preserve ]
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Get out and explore nature in Gulf County

Tired of being cooped up inside? Get outdoors and explore nature. It’s a healthy thing to do.  

Don’t know where to start? The St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve has 24 miles of trails for your walking, hiking, running or bicycle riding pleasure.

You might actually have the entire acreage to yourself at times. It’s absolutely marvelous. It’s not guaranteed that you will see a lot of wildlife. But you never know when it might be your lucky day. Know your animal tracks or want to learn how to tell just who’s moving around the buffer? Start at Treasure Road and look closely on the sides of the road for tracks.  

Even if you are a longtime resident in the area, you might have missed the trails. Recently, several visitors have remarked that their visit to the preserve was their first and how much they regretted not visiting sooner.

Where does one start this outdoor adventure? Well, a good place is the main gate, which is located across from the Visitor Center and staff offices. The address for the office and visitor center is 3915 State Road 30-A, Port St. Joe.  

Look to your left as you drive by the offices on the right. You will notice a wooden archway. Turn there and park in the parking lot (right before the closed gate). 

There is a kiosk with informational brochures to guide you — and keep you from getting lost. 

Just step around the gate and your adventure begins.

Treasure Road is the main road into the heart of the preserve. If you walk the entire length of Treasure Road you will have covered approximately 3 miles into the uplands. Since there are no motorized vehicles you must return the 3 miles back. You will notice signs denoting trails along the way. Old Shell Road and part of Treasure Road are part of the old roadbed from Apalachicola to St. Joseph. That’s right, roadbeds from the 1800’s in the preserve. If the trees could only talk!

In traveling Treasure Road, you will observe areas where there have been prescribed burns performed. Prescribed burning is necessary for the health of the preserve, its neighbors, and those plants and animals living in the preserve. While burning might seem bad, there are good burns. Certain pines, rare plants and many animals thrive from the efforts of burning. Zones are burned on a rotation schedule so you will see different stages of burns as you walk. 

Guidelines are posted at each gate in kiosks and must be followed when visiting the preserve. The trails are to be enjoyed from sunrise to sunset, and dogs must be on a leash. Preserve Manager Dylan Shoemaker wants you to experience the “Great Outdoors” and truly enjoy nature. 

“Our trails are the perfect place to amble along and notice the trees, flowers, low water crossings, and sometimes you might see a deer, tortoise, or other animal. Stands of longleaf old growth pines have disappeared in so many areas and on the preserve, one has the opportunity to see these majestic trees. Take the time and enjoy nature at its finest,” Shoemaker said. 

Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves provides brochures for you to see where you are going and plan what your next adventure will be in the preserve. Friends of the Preserves (Buffer and Aquatic) invite you to become a member and join them as they work to: Restore the land, Protect the Water and Preserve the Future. You may email: admin@stjosephbaypreserve.org if you have questions about joining or donating to their group. 

If there has been a lot of rain, you will need waterproof boots to go through the low water crossings. You will want to wear closed-toe shoes, bring water, a hat, sunscreen and a phone. 

Let’s celebrate the month of June and Explore the Outdoors. Escape the indoors for an adventure right in your own backyard: St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve.

This is the first in a series of contributed articles. Future articles will discuss some of the different trails that can be found at the Buffer Preserve.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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