Natural Resources

 

Camp Helen is comprised of 185 acres. The park is situated on the southwestern shoreline of Lake Powell, the largest coastal dune lake in the Panhandle. Lake Powell is around 780 acres. The lake is sporadically connected to nearby Gulf of Mexico via Phillips Inlet, which is usually plugged. Three of the park boundaries are bodies of waters; two miles of Lake Powell shoreline to the east and north and ½ mile of Gulf of Mexico shoreline to the south. The park contains ten distinct natural communities; the beach, beach dune, coastal grasslands, maritime hammock, mesic flatwoods, scrub, wet flatwoods, depression marsh, salt marsh and coastal dune lake.

 

beach dunes
Maritime Hammock
Mesic Flatwoods

N Old Tree
Salt Marsh
Scrub

 

There are five sea turtle species that nest on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico from May until the end of October. The main species are the loggerhead, the green turtle and the leatherback. Two other species, the Hawksbill and Kemp’s Ridley nest infrequently in the area. The beach is surveyed every morning during those months looking for turtle crawls and nests. If one is found it will be marked to protect it.

 

The beach dune is a coastal mound found along the shoreline. The primary dunes to the far southeast have been slowly reforming since Hurricane Opal in 1995 devastated them. Sea oats help accelerate this process as does preventing humans from trampling the dunes. This area is prime nesting habitat for rare shorebird species, particularly snowy plovers.

 

 

The park has roughly 3 ½ miles of hiking trails. The Oak Canopy trail travels through the maritime hammock community which is comprised of live oaks, cabbage palms, yaupon holly, saw palmetto and wax myrtle. The north trail which starts at the north end of the parking lot and travels under Hwy 98 traverses a scrub community. The main plants in this area of the park are evergreen shrubs including sand live oak, Florida rosemary, myrtle oak and Chapman’s oak. Sand pine trees may also be seen.