Panama City Beach’s best-kept secret is out! Camp Helen State Park is an ecological treasure-trove tucked away in the far western fringes of Panama City Beach. Bordered on its three sides by the Gulf of Mexico and on the other, by Lake Powell, this is a region of rare ecological confluence. The park is home to five distinct natural environments, a rarity in the world. Camp Helen State Park is one of the last pristine natural reserves in Florida. Those who are in the know regard it as one of the top attractions in Panama City Beach.
Here’s how you can discover the hidden splendors of Mother Nature when you are at the Camp Helen State Park:
Hiking in Camp Helen State Park
The best way to discover the natural splendors of Camp Helen State Park is to get as close to the ground as possible. Walk.
Several well-marked wooded trails criss-cross the park. Walk under dense canopies of maritime hammock and ancient, gnarled oak trees and over soft swathes of deer moss that cover the forest floor. The varied ecological systems in the park consist of coastal scrub oak, ancient mesic flatwoods, wet marshes, basin swamp, and remnants of marine unconsolidated substrate that probably date back centuries.
On the eastern side of the park is the Lake Powell, which is one of the largest rare coastal dune lakes in the world. Scattered all over the trail are sand dunes plastered with lupine and sea oats. The lupine takes on a velvety blue hue in summer and adds more color to the environs.
Beachcombing in Camp Helen State Park
You need a sturdy pair of hiking boots to cover the ample grounds of the park. But also carry a pair of flip-flops because you will soon be on a shell-strewn sandy white beach that opens out into the azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico. A rundown pier, the remnant of an age gone by, provides the perfect photo op.
You can catch sight of dolphins putting up a show for you in their natural habitat, colorful butterflies flitting about the foliage, and migratory birds filling the air with their cries, calls, and cackles. Don’t forget your field glasses. You might even see a sea turtle sunning on the beach.
If you are in Camp Helen State Park, don’t leave without watching the sunset. Sunsets in Panama City Beach are always breathtaking, but in the secluded and tranquil environs of the Camp Helen State Park, the colors are brighter and the drama is more intense. At sunset, Mother Nature unleashes her creativity; the sky and the waters are Her canvas.
Wildlife and Bird Watching in Camp Helen State Park
The unspoiled natural preserve at the Camp Helen State Park is home to many species of wildlife. During your hikes, you will come across white-tail deer, opossums, and squirrels. Also keep an eye out for the shy black bear.
However, there are more species of the feathered variety here. Bald eagle, kingfisher, and Cooper’s hawk are the common migratory birds that visit the park. While you are frolicking around or lazing around in the beach, you are sure to notice the snowy plovers, piping, and least terns.
Fishing in Camp Helen State Park
An area that is surrounded by water on all sides is bound to harbor a prize catch. The Camp Helen State Park is a fisherman’s delight. The waters of the Gulf of Mexico provide opportunities for saltwater fishing while the brackish waters of Lake Powell contain both salt- and fresh-water varieties of fish.
Culture Tour in Camp Helen State Park
The Camp Helen State Park is truly one of the most unique sites in the whole of Florida. Not only is it a pristine natural reserve that is home to many rare and diverse species of flora and fauna but the park also houses remnants from a prehistoric era. Middens and mounds, believed to date back more than 4,000 years ago, indicate that our ancestors once inhabited these areas. They probably foraged for food and game in the woods and waters of the park.
Between the years 1945 and 1987, Camp Helen was the company resort for the Avondale Mills employees. Some buildings from this period still exist today and offer fascinating glimpses into the lives of men and women in those days.
Beachcombing, hiking, fishing, and wildlife watching are some of the most popular activities in Panama City Beach, Florida. You can indulge in all of these activities (plus some more) at the Camp Helen State Park. A day at the park is bound to be hectic, but at the end of the day, you have to return to your quarters in town because overnight camping is not permitted. So make sure, you put up in one of the more comfortable vacation rentals in Panama City beach, Florida that feels like home and where you can put your feet, relax, and reminisce about the day that went by.