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Site Visit: Camp Helen State Park | 23937 PCB Parkway, Panama City Beach, FL 32413

NOTE: This is the third of three follow-up posts to my post titled “How is planning a meeting similar to planning a vacation?” that came about as a result of a road trip I experienced with my husband.

Quite possibly my favorite of the State Parks we visited.

The park, located approximately 18 miles to the west of Panama City Beach (midway between PCB and Destin as a point of reference) consists of 185 acres of uplands, wetlands, sand pines, scrub oaks, palmettos, sand beach dunes, and tidal and depression marshes. Trails are well marked and easily traversed with a combination of hard packed soil to sand. The admission fee of $4-6 per vehicle includes a brochure with a map for backup.

Robert Hicks purchased the property in 1928 to build a summer home for his wife Margret May and named the compound Loch Lomand.

In 1945, the property was purchased by Avondale Textile Mills of Alabama to be used as a resort camp for family employees. Named Camp Helen, it operated as a company resort from 1945-1987 and included 12 duplex cottages and a recreation hall, all of which are now listed as “registered historic structures.”

The State of Florida purchased the park in 1996; the park opened to the public in 1997.

Camp Helen is bordered on three sides by the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Powell, one of the largest coastal dune lakes in Florida.

Coastal dune lakes are defined as “shallow, irregular shaped or elliptic depressions occurring in coastal communities that share an intermittent connection with the Gulf of Mexico through which fresh water and salt water is exchanged.” Coastal dune lakes are a rarity in most parts of the word and in the US, unique to Florida.

Here coastal dunes and salt marches run along the Gulf side; freshwater wet lands and scrub pine run along the lake.

The Oak Canopy Trail (1.25 miles) provides access to the beach near Phillips Inlet on the west side. (The walk in from the entrance to the beach is another 7/10 of a mile.) The North Trail (1.8 miles) runs north from the parking lot, under the Highway 98 bridge. There you’ll find magnolias and live oaks.

We visited the Park twice. Once to walk the trails; the second, to relax and enjoy the beach which was magnificent with its silky white sand and majestic dunes.

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