Lake Powell, a coastal dune lake at Camp Helen State Park
Camp Helen State Park is a 180-acre park bordered on three sides by the Gulf of Mexico. On the fourth side is Lake Powell: one of the largest of all coastal dune lakes in the United States. Nearby middens and shell mounds tell us this area was inhabited by Native Americans more than 4,000 years before Columbus arrived.
Camp Helen was first developed as a company resort for the employees and management of Avondale Mills, a large Alabama textile corporation. They used the property from 1945 until 1987. Some of the old resort structures (the Lodge in particular) have been restored and are in use again.
The park offers opportunities for swimming, hiking, beach-combing, nature study, and fresh and salt water fishing.
Camp Helen is open for day use only, from 8 am to sunset, 365 days a year. Camp Helen State Park is west of Panama City Beach on US Highway 98, south of the west end of the Phillips Inlet Bridge, about six miles west of State Road 79.
Admission fees: $4 per vehicle, 2-8 occupants, $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists and extra passengers. You'll want exact change because you'll be paying into an honor box.