Dune Lakes – Rare Coastal Jewels
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In South Walton, our guests are well familiar with the beautiful turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But the area is also home to 15 coastal dune lakes, a geographical feature so rare that it only exists in a handful of places on Earth.
The dune lakes of South Walton were created by wind and waves thousands of years ago and are constantly evolving. They’re unusually shallow, with an average depth of about five feet, and the dunes surrounding them can get as tall as 30 feet high. Water in the dune lakes is brackish, meaning it contains a widely varying mix of salt and fresh water.
Occasionally, the water level in a dune lake reaches a critical level due to rainfall and inflows from streams. At that point, the lowest elevation of the beach gives way (locals call it a “blow out”), sending lake water into the Gulf via a temporary waterway called an outfall. Depending on tidal flows and wind conditions, saltwater from the Gulf may enter the lake along with saltwater plants and animals. The exchange between Gulf and dune lake continues until it reaches a natural equilibrium, and the connection closes again.
Because of those ever-changing water conditions, the lakes are known to be a biologically diverse, critical habitat to a wide variety of plants and animals, as well as an important natural estuary between the Gulf and upland areas.