Lake Jackson Mounds is best known for being one of the largest ceremonial temple mound complexes in the Southeast, but it offers a cool, shady nature trail, too.
There are six earthen temple mounds, the tallest 36 feet; a burial mound; and a village site from the early Fort Walton period, 1200-1500 A.D. In more modern times, this land was a plantation that belonged to Florida’s first Surveyor General, Colonel Robert Butler, in the mid-1800s. The Butler Mill Trail traverses the old plantation’s waterworks, passing the site of the mill and crossing an earthen dam once used to irrigate the fields.
Length: 0.8 miles
Lat-Long: 30.5008, -84.314
Fees / Permits: $2 per carload, self-pay
Good for: birding, children, dogs
Difficulty: 2 of 5
Bug factor: 1 of 5
Watch for poison ivy along the trail.
From the junction of US 27 (N Monroe Street) and I-10, drive north 1.7 miles to Crowder Rd. Turn right and drive 1 mile, down the hill through a residential area to Indian Mounds Road. Turn right. The road ends inside the park.
While the Butler Mill Trail is a short hike, it’s a very pleasant one, offering changes in terrain that add to the fun. The trail starts at the very end of the parking area and heads right into the shade of the hardwood forest. In spring, this is a perfect place to see trillium and columbine in bloom.
At the fork in the trail, keep to the right. The footpath rises up through a grove of tall pines and magnolias. It eventually then jogs towards an outcrop where water burbles down a steep slope – an old earthen dam – and parallels the trail. This is Butler’s Mill Creek, once tapped by a grist mill for grinding power. The mill site is just after the bridge.
The cool draft you feel from the left is coming from the steephead ravine up the slope on the right, where seepage springs add to the flow of Butler’s Mill Creek via a tributary. The ravine opens up to the left and the trail parallels it atop the old earthen dike before making a sharp left to drop into the ravine. A trail takes off to the right; it’s a spur to provide access to the park for a local neighborhood. Continue across the boardwalk and bridge in the ravine to complete the loop. Once you exit at the parking lot, don’t forget to explore the temple mounds before you leave.