Dune Allen home to rare coastal dune lakes

Dune lake

Oyster Lake is one of three dune lakes in the Dune Allen area.

Tina Harbuck
Published: Monday, June 16, 2014 at 10:43 AM.

One of South Walton’s most natural beach neighborhoods, Dune Allen boasts walking trails and beach access points. Its natural ambiance draws photographers, birdwatchers, fishermen, and nature lovers. It has cozy beachside cottages, funky boutique shops, and casual, seafood-focused dining spots. Its casual culture and the people who come here are seeking a peaceful environment to get away from it all. This is a place visitors would enjoy renting a kayak or stand up paddleboard and exploring the lakes, plants and wildlife.

Its rare dune lakes — Stallworth, Allen, and Oyster Lakes — are brackish bodies of water, a mix of salt and fresh water created by the lakes' occasional overflow to and exchange with the Gulf. Their brownish color is a natural result of organic matter that collects. The tall, delicate trees towering near the lakes are longleaf pines. Coastal Dune Lakes are only found in a few places around the globe.

The lakes were created by wind and waves thousands of years ago and are constantly evolving. They’re unusually shallow, with an average depth of about 5 feet, and the dunes surrounding them can get as tall as 30 feet high. Water in the dune lakes contains a widely varying mix of salt and fresh water.

Occasionally, the water level in a dune lake reaches a critical level due to rainfall and inflows from streams. At that point, the lowest elevation of the beach gives way (locals call it a “blow out”), sending lake water into the Gulf via a temporary waterway called an outfall. Depending on tidal flows and wind conditions, saltwater from the Gulf may enter the lake along with saltwater plants and animals. The exchange between Gulf and dune lake continues until it reaches a natural equilibrium, and the connection closes again.

Fishing is allowed at Lake Allen and Oyster Lake and they are mostly filled with freshwater fish, but some saltwater species can be found, such as largemouth bass, striped mullet, Gulf flounder, redfish, and catfish. A fishing license is required.

Birds that reside there include red-cockaded woodpeckers, bald eagles, brown pelicans, ospreys, and great blue herons.

The dunes are formed by the wind and are here due to the vast amount of sand deposited along this coast. Dunes offer the first line of defense against wave action during storms and are a very important part of the ecosystem of the beaches.

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