High above the bay and away from reality at Bay Bluffs Park

This is the latest in a series of articles that will appear throughout the year on outdoor opportunities worth checking out, both in Florida and, every so often, outside the state. This week’s story focuses in on Bay Bluffs Park in Pensacola.

COVID-19 concerns loom large over the state of Florida, and with very few distractions from the subject, finding something fun to do can be a challenge.
Outdoor activities are one outlet, including visits to parks. Among those parks is Bay Bluffs Park in Pensacola. The park provides an impressive view of Escambia Bay, which glistens in the sunlight on a weekend afternoon.
The bluffs are composed of red clay, and wooden walkways and staircases lead hikers on a trek of under a mile. Of course, it’s possible to step off the boardwalk trail and explore on your own as well.
The scenery is worth taking in along the way regardless of the path you choose. The woods are filled with Live Oak trees and various plants and wild flowers that create shade and a peaceful setting while offering up a different side of a region best known for its beaches.
But the hike is not an easy one. Those who take it will feel as if they’ve gotten a workout as the trail leads up slopes and downhill deeper into the woods.
There are lookout points that allow you a chance catch a breather and admire the beauty of the surroundings from high above the bay. It provides a good spot to sit and think, too.
A beach that lies just past the railroad tracks below gives visitors a chance to cool off after being put to the test physically by the hike.
There is history to this park as well, and that history travels back centuries.
Don Tristan DeLuna, a Spanish explorer and conquistador from the 16th century, arrived in what is now Pensacola at some point in August of 1559 after setting sail from Mexico. He took notice of the bluffs as the ships that were part of his expedition sailed into the bay, particularly the presence of the red color of the bluffs, using it as his point for anchoring along the shore.
A month later, the bay was hammered by a hurricane, destroying the ships and most of their cargo.
Two years later, what was left of the colony established by DeLuna was rescued by Spanish ships and returned to Mexico.
More than 400 years later, in 1992, below the surface of the bay’s water, a 16th century galleon was uncovered by archaeologists.
The bluffs are also tied to the history of Fort Pickens, which is part of Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Clay deposits built up in the bluffs ended up providing the raw material for brickyards in the area. Some of those bricks ended up being used in the construction of Fort Pickens.
Bay Bluffs Park is one of those places where one could spend a half day or all day. Either way, it’s an opportunity to escape
reality for a while.

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