Coastal Dune Lakes, Florida, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Florida - Panhandle East -

Also known as:  Lake Powell, Camp Creek Lake, Deer Lake, Eastern Lake, Western Lake, Alligator Lake, Little Redfish Lake, Big Redfish Lake, Draper Lake, Oyster Lake, Allen Lake, Stallworth Lake, Campbell Lake, Morris Lake and Fuller Lake

Rare, fragile and mysterious describe Florida’s Panhandle East Coastal Dune Lakes. These unusual natural phenomena are found in few places throughout the world-Australia’s Queensland, Madagascar, and New Zealand’s Northland. Those along North Florida’s Gulf Coast are likely best known, but their ecology is so unusual that even they have escaped in-depth study until recently. A total of 15 lakes lie just behind the coastal dunes lining the immensely popular beaches of Walton County.

The Coastal Dune Lakes are primarily fresh water, although with varying levels of salinity. All at one time connected to the ocean, their regular outlets now cut off by growing dunes and shifting sand. A regular feature of them all is that they connect intermittently to the Gulf of Mexico on occasion when their levels become high enough to break through the sand barriers, or when extreme low water levels allow the sea to rush in to fill the void. Usually less than five feet in depth, they hold a varying mixture of both fresh water and salt water species and act as nursery waters for several species that require brackish water to spawn.

The 15 named Coastal Dune Lakes include from east to west: Lake Powell, Camp Creek Lake, Deer Lake, Eastern Lake, Western Lake, Alligator Lake, Little Redfish Lake, Big Redfish Lake, Draper Lake, Oyster Lake, Allen Lake, Stallworth Lake, Campbell Lake, Morris Lake and Fuller Lake. Western Lake and Eastern Lake are the largest, although most of the lakes are under 20 acres. In addition, several small unnamed ponds nearby could also be included in the category. Other small lakes near the beach were undoubtedly the same type of lake but have had their outflows permanently closed off from the ocean by development. Those that remain have a small inflowing creek as a water source which adds to ground water seepage, precipitation and run-off. Their water levels are prone to wide fluctuations, and some researchers believe they were once bayous. Some lakes are bordered by wetlands which protected them from development, although the largest lakes have beach houses built right up to the lakefront on some sides.

Easternmost Lake Powell extends into adjoining Bay County, but the rest of the lakes lie in Walton County which has mobilized forces of concerned citizens to protect the Coastal Dune Lakes from further danger. New county-wide zoning requirements in Walton County work to keep new developments from encroaching too near the shorelines and protect both outflow and inflow areas. One of the problems that scientists face in dealing with preservation of the lakes is that each lake has its own patterns of outflow and appears to ‘evolve’ regardless of human intervention, making their continued existence over long periods questionable. Only years of observation have made these long-term patterns visible.

The little Coastal Dune Lakes are noted for their serene beauty and the diversity of wildlife and plants found along their shores. Most have water stained dark by natural tannin produced by decaying organic matter, alarming those who see the rare ‘out-fall’ of water to the Gulf. It is not pollution, however; the lakes’ waters are very clean. As the lakes’ rare ecology becomes better known, thriving local businesses in the form of ecology tours have sprung up in the area. Usually these tours use kayaks or occasionally stand-up paddleboards called Yolos to tour the waters silently to appreciate the many birds along the shore and small fish seen beneath the dark surface. Archeological studies show these lakes have seen human visitation for hundreds of years, as they left behind traces of their shellfish meals. Today’s visitors more often arrive by taking a path through the coastal dunes from one of the nearby resort hotels or beaches. The environment here is very different than the sun-drenched, sugar-sand beaches along the Gulf a few hundred feet away.

Most of the Coastal Dune Lakes now have a public access point where the water can be reached, and fishermen are often seen trying their luck for bass, bream, pan fish, speckled trout , catfish, mullet, red fish or flounder. Motors are allowed on some of the lakes, but most use canoes or electric trolling motors; disturbing the serenity somehow just seems unnatural. Due to the brackish nature of the water, both a freshwater fishing license and one for saltwater fish are required. The stretch along Highway 30A near the Gulf coast is a mecca for walkers and bicyclists, and many of the lakes can be seen or accessed from the road. Parking is allowed on the road shoulder unless marked. Multiple local businesses rent bikes, kayaks and paddleboards to visitors wishing to tour the lakes and surrounding countryside. Many vacationers plan a few days of their vacation away from the beach to explore father inland and quickly fall in love with the coastal dune lakes.

Four of Florida’s state parks encompass or border some of the Coastal Dune Lakes: Camp Helen, Grayton Beach, Topsail Hill Preserve and Deer Lake State Parks all have dune walkways and woodland trails for exploring the lakes, along with beautiful beaches on the Gulf. The lakes within Topsail Hill Preserve do not allow any motorized boat traffic and only permit the kayaks that they rent to paddle the waters of Campbell Lake. Topsail Hill includes a former commercial RV park that has been kept available to RV campers and offers full campground facilities to all visitors. Reservations are highly recommended as the camping spaces are popular and often full. Because the coastal dune lakes are in danger from natural erosion from wind and particularly hurricanes, Topsail Hill Preserve has attempted to stabilize some of the barrier dunes by planting sea oats on the narrow strip of dunes shielding the lakes from the ocean.

Other lodgings are available, from the many resort hotels, rental condos, private guest cottages and bed & breakfasts. Although the warm summer months are most popular, winter temperatures seldom drop below 40 degrees at night, and sunny days are still pleasant for walking the beach and exploring the Coastal Dune Lakes. The Florida Panhandle attractions are often available year-round, with Destin, Panama City, Fort Walton Beach, Santa Rosa Beach and the Choctawhatchee Bay often open for business year round. Come, try out a Yolo board…after all, it means “You Only Live Once”!

*There are unfortunately no statistics for the Coastal Dune Lakes.

Things to do at Coastal Dune Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park

Fish species found at Coastal Dune Lakes

  • Bass
  • Catfish
  • Flounder
  • Redfish
  • Trout

Coastal Dune Lakes Photo Gallery

Coastal Dune Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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