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Baygall and cypress surround the boardwalk toward Tarkiln Bayou. A fisherman casts his line from the deck at the bayou. Wire grass grows lushly after a spring burn. Beautiful yellow flowers stand out amid the green of the prairie.
Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park
White-top pitcher plants shoot up in the wet prairie among toothache plants and wiregrass. Deep in the grasses parrot and sweet pitcher plants hide.

History and Culture

Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park derives its name from the bayou which empties into Perdido Bay. During the 1800s, tar kilns were located on the adjacent peninsula to process the tar removed from southern yellow pines. Visitors can still find an occasional 'cat face' in some of the larger pine trees where ceramic pots were used to capture the seeping tar. While pine tar was an important resource for the maritime industry, it was also used in the production of soaps and animal medicines.

Prescribed fire burns the undergrowth below a stand of pine.

Prescribed Burn

Prescribed burns are one of the best restoration tools for wet prairies. In conjunction with water flow and quality, it is of primary importance in the long term health and viability of these lands, the adjacent bayou and the bay. Park staff work with the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Geological Survey and Gulf Coastal Plains Ecosystem to restore this habitat.

The observation deck looks out over a calm, still Tarkiln Bayou.

Observation Deck

The preserve is named for this smooth body of water. Boaters entering the bayou must be under sail or oar power to protect the estuary. The western bayshore of the peninsula follows Perdido Bay for 2.5 miles to the mouth of the bayou. Among the many resident species and varieties of animal and plant life, visitors often see belted kingfishers.

A small patch of prescribed fire burns the understory of the flatwoods.

Flatwoods Burn

Prescribed fire mimics natural fire regimes and is used in the restoration of many fire-dependent communities like these flatwoods and adjacent wet prairies. This small strip head fire moves quickly to reduce fuel loading.

A red-tipped sweet pitcher plant peeps out from the surrounding brush.

Sweet Pitcher Plant

Sarracenia purpurea is one of four pitcher plants and dozens of carnivorous plants that thrive in the poorly drained, mucky soils of the wet prairie community. Sweet pitcher plants are short and bulbous and are often revealed by fires which burn off the concealing wire grass hummocks and encroaching titi shrubs.

The pine-dotted prairie stretches for acres at Tarkiln Bayou Preserve.

Prairie

This Preservation 2000 acquisition was first opened to public visitation under the name of Perdido Pitcher Plant Prairie. The preserve was renamed for Tarkiln Bayou and Florida Forever, the current land acquisition program in Florida continues to add to the preserve. Currently the preserve boasts more than 4,300 acres.