History & Formation
Coastal dune lakes are composed of fresh water. Some of the dune lakes in Florida are separated from the ocean by only a few feet of sand, called berms. This is what makes the dune lakes so unique – they’re bodies of fresh water that hug a large body of salt water. They were formed by years of winds of that redistributed sand, and in turn created shallow water basins. Most of the lakes are only about 5-feet deep.
After heavy rain or other water inflow, the sand berms are often breached. Freshwater openly pours into the Gulf of Mexico, creating what is called an “outfall”. This is also when salty seawater can infiltrate the dune lakes until water levels return to normal. The result? A rare ecosystem that is home to both fresh and saltwater species.
The shallow, calm nature of the coastal dune lakes makes them a favorite for paddlers. Rent a paddleboard or kayak to truly experience the beauty of the dune lakes. It’s an incredible feeling to know that you’re watching the sunset over one of the most rare natural occurrences on the planet. Take an eco tour with an experienced tour guide for the best sights and spots in the dune lakes.
Birding is another popular activity in the coastal dune lakes. The lakes are an important source for migrating birds; so many unique species can be seen at the right time of the year. Photographers find the region to be attractive for this same reason.
Accessing the dune lakes can be a little difficult if you don’t know where to go. Western Lake, located in Grayton Beach State Park, is the easiest to access and the most popular. Oyster Lake can only be accessed by a footbridge and requires you to park alongside Highway 30A. Alligator Lake and Little Redfish Lake are limited in accessibility, but don’t let that deter your adventuring. Many believe the most difficult to access lakes also provide the most rewarding experiences. Nearly all of the coastal dune lakes can be reached by the beach – and for several that’s the only way to get to them.