Lake Powell has the distinction of being the largest Coastal Dune Lake in Florida. Coastal Dune Lakes are rare occurrences and are only found in coastal communities along the Gulf of Mexico. Other than the Florida Panhandle, Coastal Dune Lakes only occur in coastal Oregon, Madagascar, Australia, and New Zealand. These interesting lakes are fed by freshwater upland systems. What them so unique is that following periods of heavy rainfall or during a coastal storm surge they intermittently exchange water with nearby saltwater bodies. After the initial opening a temporary and generally meandering outlet allows continued mixing. This periodic opening and closing results in a brackish ecosystem that allows both fresh and saltwater flora, fauna and wildlife to flourish. The amount of salinity varies throughout the opening and closing cycles. Although Lake Powell is fed by freshwater tributaries, records reveal that most of the lake is remains brackish year-round. Though similar, the Coastal Dune Lakes each develop an ecosystem that is uniquely adapted to its very specific geological and hydrological conditions.
The Lake Powell ecosystem occupies southwestern Bay County and southeastern Walton County. The health of the ecosystem and its included Lake Powell is dependent on the maintenance of as natural a state as possible. Knowledge of the components of the ecosystem is essential to understanding and maintaining its varied functions. In recognition of the excellent recreational value, ecological value, and the pristine water quality in Lake Powell, the lake was designated an Outstanding Florida Water (OFW) in 1991 by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. This designation provides special protections through the regulatory programs of the State of Florida directed at maintaining the water quality.
The Lake Powell Community Alliance (LPCA) is a volunteer organization formed in 2004. Its purpose is the preservation, restoration, and management of the globally rare and imperiled Lake Powell ecosystem. The LPCA earned a grant in 2005 which resulted in development of a Comprehensive Management Plan for Lake Powell. The group has conducted comprehensive water quality monitoring of Lake Powell for more than 20 years. In addition to water quality monitoring, the group has partnered with other conservation groups, and the Friends of Camp Helen to do an annual Lake Powell Cleanup in concert with the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.
Camp Helen is ideally situated on the Southwest Border of Lake Powell. Its location provides a large area of access to Lake Powell for recreational and leisure activities. The Friends maintains a successful kayak rental operation. From March through September, kayaks and paddle boards are available to park visitors at a very affordable rate. Since this concession is run by the Friends of Camp Helen, all profits go directly for the betterment of Camp Helen. Individuals may also bring their own equipment and launch from Camp Helen at no additional charge. Anglers often fish for trout and redfish along the shores of the lake while families swim and picnic at a small beach area near the old boat dock. There are plans to rebuild the boat dock in the near future. The Park also offer interpretative programs such as ranger guided moonlight paddling trips that emphasize the importance of the Coastal Dune Lakes and the need to protect its fragile ecosystem.