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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.