Compass Lake, Florida, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Florida - Panhandle West -

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Often overlooked as a Florida vacation destination, crystal-clear Compass Lake in the Panhandle-West region is far removed from the hectic recreational activities of the better-known peninsula. One of a number of natural sinkhole lakes, 581-acre Compass lake sits atop a limestone ridge, one of several underlying the Florida landscape. The ridges provide the only real hills in the state, giving these areas an elevation of up to 300 feet above sea level. At the 180-foot level, spring-fed Compass Lake offers a pleasantly temperate climate, free of oppressive humidity and makes it the perfect year-round spot for relaxation and lakefront living. This is no doubt the reason Compass Lake has been ‘re-discovered’ yet again. For Compass Lake has been discovered anew several times over its history.

Compass Lake is an all-sports lake, offering water skiing, tubing, jet skiing, pontooning, power boating, sailing, wakeboarding, canoeing, kayaking and swimming. In keeping with its reputation as a boating lake, a restaurant along the shore is accessible by boat. Most of the shoreline provides a natural sand beach. Nearly all homes have private docks, but the State maintains two boat launch sites on the lake to accommodate visitors. Although bream, crappie, bass and shellcracker (also known as red-eared sunfish) are caught, mostly in the near-shore shallows and the bay created by the former cypress swamp, the majority of the lake is too deep to support many fish. The lake is oligotrophic, as is common with limestone karst lakes, and produces so few water plants that fish have little habitat for spawning or feeding. The majority of the main lake averages 35-40 feet in depth, with a few deep springs reaching 70 feet.

As with much of the Panhandle, the Compass Lake area was first utilized for its timber resources. At the time, the lake was almost perfectly round, leading to the name Compass Lake (there was already a Round Lake nearby). In 1906, a small dam was built to power a grist mill across the outlet. The dam raised the water level several feet, flooding a portion of adjacent cypress swamp, drowning the lakeshore road and creating a shallow bay to the lake. A settlement grew up around Compass Lake containing, at one time, a post office, stores and a bank. Because much of the surrounding pine forests were owned by the German-American Lumber Company, the property was confiscated during WWI, and the US Government cut most of the timber. Next, farming interests planted Satsuma orange groves and branched out into Tung Oil nut trees. Business boomed and the settlement at Compass Lake attracted workers who built modest homes. The lake regularly attracted fishermen and boaters from as far away as Dothan, AL. The Dothan Boat Club still exists at the lake and provides a clubhouse, beach and boating activities to its members. A few seasons of early frost killed off both the Satsuma groves and the Tung Oil nut industry, and Compass Lake slid quietly back into hill-country anonymity.

Although once surrounded by the seasonal cottages of working-class residents, Compass Lake residents have seen a major increase in the remodeling or outright replacement of those modest cottages with more expensive housing. The lakefront is still mostly residential single-family homes, but a very few apartment complexes now exist in the neighborhood. In recent years, a large upscale development has taken root on the eastern side of the lake. Boasting 10,000 acres, the development offers luxury homes, community boat dock, a lodge and guest cabin facilities for property owners and their guests. The guest cabins are the only camp facilities on the lake at present. The development is an equestrian-friendly facility, with stables, horse boarding, riding lessons and miles of riding trails.

Located about half-way between Panama City, FL and Dothan, AL, Compass Lake is only 10 miles from Marianna and Interstate 10. The area is rich in historical significance, with many restored antebellum plantation homes open for tours or as bed-and-breakfasts. Nearby Alford holds a grocery story and some basic services, while Marianna contains nearly everything a resident would need. About 30 miles south, Panama City offers public Gulf beaches and marinas for ‘big water’ boating plus big-city amenities and attractions. The entire area around Compass lake is filled with unique geological treasures, some of which are state parks. Two well-known attractions near Chipley, Falling Waters State Park and Caverns State Park, both display in spectacular fashion the effect of eons of water flowing across the ancient limestone.

A number of underwater caves attract divers to the area near Compass Lake. At Merritt’s Mill Pond in Marianna, divers regularly explore underwater caverns; more caverns are found along the Chipola River and Holmes Creek – both favorites of kayakers. Diving these caverns is not for amateurs; all divers venturing into them should be cave-certified. Both watercourses are popular for lazy day floats and provide an excellent way to observe local wildlife. The massive springs that form these waterways provide a major amount of fresh water to the local area. Many of the small towns in the vicinity annually produce quaint, unique and sometimes hilarious annual festivals, such as the Possum Festival in nearby Wausau. Farmers markets, antique shops and local craftsmen can all be located close by.

Visiting Compass Lake is easier than one might think: several local property owners regularly rent vacation lodgings by the week or month. Many are directly on the lakefront. Although there are no campgrounds directly on the lake, several are located just a short distance away. Most large chain hotels have a facility at the exits along I-10. Real estate is available, both in the new development and among existing properties on the west side of the lake. Easily accessed via I-10, Compass Lake is within an afternoon’s drive of Jacksonville, Atlanta, Birmingham and New Orleans, ideal for a long weekend or an annual vacation. So bring the canoe and the kids. Come and enjoy this unique area that is Compass Lake.

Things to do at Compass Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park
  • Antiquing

Fish species found at Compass Lake

  • Bass
  • Crappie
  • Redear Sunfish (Shellcracker)
  • Sunfish

Compass Lake Photo Gallery

Compass Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Surface Area: 581 acres

Shoreline Length: 5 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 180 feet

Average Depth: 35 feet

Maximum Depth: 70 feet

Completion Year: 1906

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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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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