It’s a rare treat when a single location offers more than one would expect. At Grayton Beach State Park, paddling enthusiasts can paddle and fish in the Gulf of Mexico or in the park’s 100-acre coastal dune lake. Western Lake is a mixture of both fresh and salt water creating a salt marsh ecosystem capable of supporting a vast array of wildlife.
The southern edge of Western Lake comes equipped with a single lane boat launch, parking area and picnic shelters. The majority of craft that use Western Lake consist of kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards, although the occasional small engine boat can sometimes be seen making its way across the lake. Along the shore by the park’s campground area faded signs warn visitors of the presence of alligators in the lake.
Once on the water the first thing paddlers will notice is the dark, rich tannin-colored waters of the lake. Coastal dune lakes are mostly permanent bodies of water that lie in close proximity to a sea coast and periodically exchange water through seepage, outfall or storms. These rare bodies of water, only a few hundred worldwide, offer some of the most amazing biodiversity found anywhere.
Flora and Fauna of Grayton Beach State Park
As paddlers explore the lake they may be amazed at the sights. Towering dunes, pine flatwoods, salt marsh, and lily pads seem to magically appear around every turn. Near the north end of Western Lake, Scenic Highway 30A crosses two of the lake’s three bridges and paddlers can watch tourists ride along the busy bike path that parallels the lake.
Wildlife along the lake includes eagles, osprey, egrets, gulls, gopher tortoises, alligators, deer, turkey, turtles and the endangered Choctawhatchee beach mouse. When visitors get tired of paddling there are hiking trails to explore that traverse much of park allowing visitors to see magnolias, pine woods, coastal scrub and sea oats among other flora and fauna.
Wrap up a visit with a trip to the Gulf side of the park for saltwater kayak fishing or a cooling dip in the clear, emerald green waters. Next, take a walk on the sugar white “singing sands” composed of 99% quartz crystal. Stay late or camp to enjoy a sunset to remember.
How to Get to Grayton Beach
Grayton Beach State Park is located on Scenic Highway 30A in Santa Rosa Beach, Fl, between Destin and Panama City. Other nearby paddling destinations include Econfina Creek and Holmes Creek whose waterways feature crystal clear karst springs.
This article is copyrighted by Beverly Hill