South Walton's Coastal Dune Lakes
What do New Zealand, Australia, Madagascar and South Walton, Florida have in common that no other place on Earth has? It’s the rare and beautiful coastal dune lake. Take a drive down Highway 30A and you will find 15 of these rare lakes.
Moving along from West to East, the lakes are as follows: 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 at Camp Helen.
Our coastal dune lakes were formed around 10,000 years ago by winds that scattered sand and created the shallow lake basins. Did you know that most of the 15 lakes average only 5 feet deep?
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.
Why Is The Lake Water So Dark?
No, the water in our coastal dune lakes isn’t polluted. The water is dark due to all the pine needles, leaves and grasses that fall into the shallow water. The dark water is called Tannic Water (don’t mistake it for tonic water and mix it with your gin).
Don’t Panic, It’s Just Tannic
Tannic water is created when leaves, grasses, pine needles, and other organic matter falls into the water. The matter breaks down over time, giving the water that tea-stained look.
In fact, almost all lakes and rivers contain some form of tannic water. Tannic water isn’t harmful and if you look closely, it’s very clear. The unique color comes mainly from the pine trees that surround the lakes.