Hurricane Idalia's potential landfall zone includes historic Florida gem

Hurricane Idalia is nearing landfall along Florida's Gulf Coast – and the state's second-oldest lighthouse might be in the storm's path. 

The National Hurricane Center said its confidence is increasing that Hurricane Idalia will make landfall near Apalachee Bay on Wednesday morning, an area along the Gulf Coast that's 30 miles south of Tallahassee. In this region is the St. Marks Lighthouse, which was built in 1831 to help boats navigate the Apalachee Bay and St. Marks River as the area thrived as a new port town. 

The Second Seminole Indian War broke out in 1835, but the lighthouse was not attacked. Erosion, however, was the main threat to the landmark at the time. It was torn down and moved more inland after erosion threatened it in the early 1840s, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. At its new site, it survived destructive hurricanes in the 1840s and 1850s, including the hurricane in September 1843, which destroyed most of Port Leon.

The tower was also threatened in the 1860s during the Civil War. The tower was repaired, however, and also heightened to its current height of 82 feet above sea level. 

In the late 1890s and early 1900s, the area surrounding St. Marks Lighthouse was incorporated into the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses 83,000 acres of wintering habitat for migratory birds, according to USFWS. The U.S. Coast Guard assumed responsibility for the lighthouse in 1939. 


The lighthouse was then automated in 1960 and remained as an active aid for boats and ships on Apalachee Bay. Its ownership was transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to USFWS. 

The tower underwent a major renovation in 2017 and 2018. 

According to the St. Marks and St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuges, the refuge gate on Lighthouse Road will be closed Tuesday, along with the visitor center. 

Click here to learn more about the St. Marks Lighthouse.