Do you have a handle on the panhandle? 

Photo Credit: Ginger Williams

It’s nearing summertime folks!  We all know what that means: great weather, sunshine, and new adventures!  Do you love nature and viewing wildlife from up high?  Would you like to try out surf fishing?  Have you ever seen the rare and endangered white-top pitcher plant?  Would you like to get close to an alligator snapping turtle?!  Do you like treasure hunts?  Luckily, all of these entertaining activities can be easily found within your own Escambia County!

Up high:  The Big Lagoon State Park offers breath taking views from their observatory tower which is great to catch a glimpse of nearby wildlife, feel that summertime breeze, and overlook the nearby National Seashore.  If you’re a bird lover, break out those binoculars (or rent some from the Park Ranger) because this park is actually a refuge for several species of birds like nuthatches, towhees, brown thrashes, cardinals, and birds that migrate in the spring and fall.  The park provides 655 acres accompanying diverse ecosystems such as beaches, marshes, flatwoods, and woodlands, and the wildlife that make these habitats their home.  While roaming around, you can bet you will get your 10,000 steps in!  Activities range from kayaking, camping, snorkeling, canoeing, and bicycling to fishing and hiking! 

Did you need a pedicure?  How about sticking your toes into Perdido Key!  Visitors are welcome to surf-fish, picnic, swim, collect seashells, and tour trails!  Perdido Key acts as a 247 acre barrier island along the crystal clear waters and powdery white sands of the Gulf of Mexico.  The protected dunes and grasses are enjoyed by overlooking boardwalks.  The protected natural vegetation and sand dunes along the shore are important because together they prevent erosion and absorb the impact of powerful storms like hurricanes or high waves.  This also lessens flooding, surly we do not want to be underwater!  Perdido Key is creating a nourishment project addressing beach erosion.  Beach erosion is sand that is taken away too quickly before it can be re-supplied.  The project entails utilizing compatible sand (about 3 million cubic yards to be exact) along Johnson Beach and Perdido Key.  Native and salt tolerant vegetation like sea oats will also be planted to not only stabilize the sand, but also trap wind-blown sand.  The additional sand will raise the elevation eight feet above sea level.  This project will give new homes to costal animals, shorebirds, and replenish the beach!  One particular coastal animal, the Perdido Key Beach Mouse, burrows its home right in this very area!  This nocturnal mouse is not only unique to this park, but also endangered which is why this beach nourishment project will help so many!    

Did you know some plants are carnivorous!?  Well in fact there are!  At Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park, visitors will receive a lifetime opportunity to see the very rare, carnivorous, and endangered white-top pitcher plant and the butterwort.  These types of plants catch insects with their sticky leaves!  Most plants we know use their roots to absorb water which is a combination of cohesion and adhesion to bring nutrients to the plant.  However, the white-top pitcher plant accumulates water in its funnel like top to easily trap its prey.  The butterwort conserves water during the winter or dry seasons.  The alligator snapping turtle can also be located here, but don’t get too close!  Along with these interesting plants, the park also offers fun hiking trails and picnic areas!  In addition, geocaching is very popular if you’re looking to go on a hunt!  Here the technological age and the environment have joined using a global positioning systems (GPS) device and searching the outdoors for an unknown treasure!  This is a great way to learn your geography!      

Dive in this summer!  Explore your own home!

Photo Credit: Ginger Williams