St. Marks NWR: Otter Lake Recreation Area

Otter Lake Rd., Panacea, 32346
(850) 925-6121
sunrise to sunset

picnic area

Though not as famous as the St. Marks Unit, the Panacea Unit a.k.a Otter Lake offers good birding too. Look for migratory songbirds in the oaks around the picnic area and along the shoreline and in the cypress trees around the boat launch for Prothonotary Warblers (summer) and Little Blue Herons. You can opt to hike one of the longer trails: the south Piney Ridge Trail loop (5 miles) or the north Otter Lake Trail loop (9 miles). The latter runs through pinewoods interrupted by occasional bayheads and wetlands. Watch for Red-headed and Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Wild Turkeys and Northern Bobwhites. At dusk, check the boat launch for Wood Storks, Snowy Egrets and both vultures coming to roost; an Osprey nest is visible at the site and you may see Bald Eagles in the winter months. Swallow-tailed Kites can be seen soaring overhead in spring and summer while raucous Red-shouldered Hawks are common. There is seasonal hunting in the Panacea Unit of the refuge so check the website before you visit.

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