Florida's Treasure: Coastal Dune Lakes - 30A

Florida’s Treasure: Coastal Dune Lakes

Eastern Lake
Coastal Dune Lakes are a rare natural phenomena that only occur in a handful of locations around the globe, including New Zealand, Australia, Madagascar and South Walton, Florida.

In fact, South Walton has 15 named coastal dune lakes that fall along the Scenic Highway 30-A corridor. Lake Powell, the largest of the 15 lakes, falls in neighboring Bay County and is the only coastal dune lake not fully situated in Walton County.

South Walton’s coastal dune lakes are said to be as much as 10,000 years old and were formed by winds that redistributed sand and created the shallow basins (with most lakes averaging only about 5 feet deep).

But what makes these lakes truly unique is that their mostly fresh water content sits within just a few feet of the Gulf’s salt water, separated only by a natural berm of sand. Following a heavy rain or other inflow, the sand berms are suddenly breached, causing a flood of fresh water to pour openly into the Gulf. This event is known as an “outfall,” and it’s a time when salty seawater can also flood back into the dune lake, until the levels stabilize. The result is a rare brackish ecosystem that’s home to both fresh and salt-water species.

They are (moving from west to east): Fuller Lake, Morris Lake, Campbell Lake, Stallworth Lake, Allen Lake, Oyster Lake, Draper Lake, Big Redfish Lake, Little Redfish Lake, Alligator Lake, Western Lake, Eastern Lake, Deer Lake, Camp Creek Lake and Lake Powell, adjacent to Camp Helen and Inlet Beach.


Coastal Dune Lake Water Lillies

What Lives in a Coastal Dune Lake?

South Walton’s coastal dune lakes create plant and wildlife hotspots. Periodically open to the Gulf of Mexico, coastal dune lakes allow fresh and saltwater to mix and become brackish. As a result, both fresh and saltwater species can thrive in and around the lakes. Unlike the rougher seas just beyond

Inlet Beach

Inlet Beach

Inlet Beach is just about as authentic ‘Old Florida’ as you’ll find in South Walton, and perhaps anywhere. Quite quiet and bordered by 13-acres of protected dunes, this pristine beach neighborhood feels as if time somehow forgot it. Most homes here are classic Florida cottages. Think A-Frame with a front

Western Lake YOLO Sunset by Jamie Conley

Area Groups to Collaborate on Coastal Dune Lakes Study

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, Mattie Kelly Environmental Institute of Northwest Florida State College, Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and the University of Florida will be supporting a University of Florida Water and Soil Science graduate student, Brandy Foley, and her thesis research project focused on three coastal dune lakes in Walton County.

How to Protect Coastal Dune Lakes

Coastal dune lakes are both rare and home to a multitude of wildlife and plant species. But what’s the best way to protect them? Brandy Foley, who studies coastal dune lakes for the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, has a number of suggestions:  1. If you live within the Coastal Dune Lake Protection Zone, follow