From the small parking area at Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park, a paved barrier-free trail winds through dense pine flatwoods.
A delicate lacy trumpet rising from the grasses beckons just beyond the boardwalk’s edge.
Its network of thin veins of white help you in identifying a white-topped pitcher plant, Sarracenia leucophylla.
Found only along the Gulf Coast, this tall carnivorous plant is one of four rare pitcher plant species that thrive in these swampy prairies between the pines near the Alabama border.
Resources for exploring the area
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Address: 2401 Bauer Rd, Pensacola
Fees: $3 per vehicle
Restroom: Vault toilet at trailhead
Land Manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM until sunset daily.
Leashed pets welcome, but for the sake of other visitors please don’t take them on the boardwalk.
From interstate 10 and US 29 in Pensacola, head south on US 29 S for 1.4, before turning right onto North W St. In 1.7 miles, turn right onto SR 296, continuing for 4.3 miles to N Blue Angel Parkway. Turn left, continuing for 7.7 miles, then make a right at SR 292. In 3 miles, turn left onto Bauer Rd, and the park entrance will be on the right in 1.7 miles.
About the Park
Protecting one of the largest stands of white-topped pitcher plants in Florida, Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park encompasses a botanical wonderland known as the Perdido Pitcher Plant Prairie.
A mosaic of wet prairies amid pine flatwoods that is a haven for carnivorous plants of critical concern, its biodiversity includes more than a hundred species of plants.
Adjoining wetlands had been bulldozed for housing (we grimaced at “Pitcher Plant Circle”), so protecting this gem became a critical project for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Starting in 1998, The Nature Conservancy assisted the with the purchase of land along Tarkiln Bayou, part of the Perdido River along the Alabama border.
Of 6,800 acres targeted for acquisition, 4,400 have been protected thus far between the Perdido River floodplain and Big Lagoon.
In addition to conservation, access for recreation was a consideration. The park is a passive preserve for botanical study.
A boardwalk across the wetlands offers some of the most up-close views of pitcher plants you’ll find in Florida without getting your feet wet.
While there is no camping on site, a campground is fifteen minutes away at nearby Big Lagoon State Park.
Hiking Tarkiln Bayou
While the old forest roads of Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park provide a place for amateur botanists to roam, three marked hiking trails are established.
The most prominent is the Tarkiln Bayou Trail, a wheelchair-accessible path. It heads directly from the parking lot into the pine flatwoods.
It leads to the Emma Claire Boardwalk of Hope, which crosses a spectacular pitcher plant bog on its way to an overlook over the bayou. The round trip is 1.5 miles.
Branching off the Tarkiln Bayou Trail, the 5.8-mile Perdido Bay Trail loops through the coastal forest around the Perdido Pitcher Plant Prairie to Perdido Bay.
Traverse a loop through coastal forests at Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park, featuring sweeping views of Perdido Bay and a dynamic mix of wet and dry ecosystems.
A third trail, the Wet Prairie Trail, makes a 2-mile loop through wet pine flatwoods on the east side of Bauer Rd
A walk through the Perdido Bay Trail at Tarkiln Bayou Preserve
Our photos of Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Explore a sweep of coastal forest and wetlands along one of Florida’s largest lagoons, with panoramas that stretch to Perdido Key and the Gulf of Mexico.
Showcasing the habitat diversity of Perdido Key at Johnson Beach, the accessible Perdido Key Discovery Trail is a gentle boardwalk over wetlands, forests, and dunes.
With sand as white as fresh fallen snow, Perdido Key State Park offers Florida’s westernmost public beach.