Live Oak Landing
December 30, 2017
What a real treat and surprise Camp Helen turned out to be ! Joe and I both agreed, we saved the best for last...maybe its because we had visited Grayton and Topsail State Parks on previous visits. Don't misunderstand, both those parks should be on anyones list of absolutely gorgeous places to visit when planning a trip to South Walton Beaches. But, Camp Helen (actually in Bay County with a Panama City Beach address) had a charm all it's own. It is surrounded by water with Lake Powell on the east and north, a salt marsh on the west and the Gulf on the south.
Lake Powell is the largest of the 15 named coastal dune lakes. In an earlier post I had stated Western Lake at Grayton SP was the largest...and it is in Walton County. But Lake Powell takes the trophy for being the largest of all at 767 acres (it is actually in both Walton and Bay counties). Hwy 98 runs right over the shimmering blue water.
The trail that meanders through the park is called the Oak Canopy Trail. It is divided into 2 sections...the north trail that runs under the Hwy 98 bridge to a marsh and the south trail that leads to the beach, a marsh, and an oak canopy forest. We opted for the south section.
After following the lake, we enjoyed the marsh area. One lonely duck is all we saw.
At the intersection we went left towards the beach. There wasn't a wooded walkway like in the other parks...just lots of rope and signs designating "protected areas" for dunes and nesting.
Shorebirds were having just as much fun as we were.
|A couple of banded snowy plovers|
The next section of trail actually took us under the oak canopy. Do you see the entrance?
Saw Palmetto lined the way.
|The sharp teeth along the stem give the plant it's name.|
Camp Helen has history. Robert Hicks purchased 185 acres in 1928 where he built a summer home for his wife Margaret. Avondale Mills (of Sylacauga, AL) bought the property from the Hicks family in 1945 as a resort camp for employee families (1945-1987). In 1996, Florida purchased the park and opened Camp Helen in 1997.
|The horse stable became the Camp Director's office and a place for the employees of the mill to make their own beds and linens.|
Camp Helen SP is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The last section of trail is a walk/tour of the historic grounds.
Some buildings that have been renovated like the stable, the water tower and pump house and the rainbow cottages.
The Hicks family built the tower in the 1930s.
|The Rainbow cottages were built in the 1930s by the Mills for employees.|
Other buildings, like the kitchen, are definitely showing their age.
We had such a leisurely, pleasant day...a sunny day in-between rainy and yep, cold days. Florida takes great pride in their state parks and it shows. There are 175 award-winning state parks, state trails, and historic sites in the Sunshine State. Other state parks in this area include Henderson and St. Andrews in Panama City Beach, Henderson in Destin, and Eden Gardens in Santa Rosa. Also Point Washington State Forest offers primitive camping and trails to walk, bike or drive.
So, until next time...
HAPPY TRAILS !