If you’ve ever visited Franklin County during the fall, you may have noticed our area is filled with breathtaking, brilliantly colored monarch butterflies. It’s quite a sight to behold!
But why are there so many butterflies on St. George Island, Apalachicola and all across the Forgotten Coast this time of year? Because this is their last stop before they flutter over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico for the winter.
Monarch Migration Trail
Every autumn, monarch butterflies begin their long trek south to warmer climates for the winter. These beautiful insects fly thousands of miles from as far north as Canada and the northern U.S. all the way to Mexico for the winter months.
Here in Franklin County, we’re lucky to be a part of this magnificent migration trail. If you visit our area this time of year, you may spot spectacular swarms of these gorgeous creatures gliding overhead or taking a break to rest and feed on nectar. At times, our local trees and bushes are completely covered with gently flapping, black and orange wings.
The monarchs begin their southern migration in the early fall, usually from September to October. The exact timing varies depending on weather conditions and storm activity. When the temperatures begin to drop and the days grow shorter in the northern U.S., this can trigger butterflies to start their migration as early as late August. However, a tropical storm or hurricane may prompt them to postpone their journey.
How do these delicate creatures travel so many miles in a relatively short amount of time? They catch a ride on a cold front, which allows them to fly along at 10 to 30 miles per hour. At these speeds, they can cover as much as 80 miles a day!
No single butterfly completes the full round trip from the north to Mexico and back again. However, the same butterflies that migrate to Mexico can make it part of the way back. That’s because migrating monarchs can live up to nine months longer than other non-migrating butterflies. This gives them enough time to fly several hundred miles north of Mexico in the spring to lay eggs before they die. Once their offspring are born, those butterflies continue the trip back north. In every yearly migration cycle, there are four generations of monarchs involved.
Butterfly Viewing Hotspots
In the fall months, visitors may spot migrating monarchs anywhere across Apalachicola, St. George Island, Carrabelle, Eastpoint and Alligator Point. However, your best bet for prime butterfly viewing is at one of Franklin County’s pristine parks.
Nestled at the far eastern tip of Franklin County, Bald Point State Park is renowned as one of the best areas in all of the Southeastern U.S. to watch annual butterfly migrations. Every fall, Bald Point visitors commonly see monarch butterflies, along with bald eagles and other migrating raptors, heading south for the winter.
Bald Point State Park, which supports 4,065 upland acres, is located on Alligator Point, where Ochlockonee Bay meets Apalachee Bay. In addition to birding and butterfly watching, the park offers tons of outdoor activities, including swimming, sunbathing, fishing, paddling and windsurfing. Park facilities include a fishing dock and picnic pavilions.
Ready to flutter down to the Forgotten Coast for bountiful butterfly viewing? Book your vacation today!