Located near the sleepy beach hamlet of Carillon Beach, Camp Helen State Park is a nature lover’s paradise, where several different ecosystems entertain the visitor in this magnificent state park. Camp Helen State Park offers many activities for all ages such as kayaking, canoeing, biking, sunbathing, hiking, paddle-boarding, fishing or swimming in the fresh waters of Powell Lake. In 2012, the historic district within the park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The historic lodge built by Robert and Margaret Hicks in the late 1920s is the manmade centerpiece of the 180-acre park. The Rainbow Cottages were subsequently added by Mrs. Hicks as lodging in order to supplement her income during the Great Depression. In 1945, a textile owner from neighboring Alabama with a company named Avondale Mills decided to establish a company retreat upon the shores of Powell Lake. The company retreat lasted until 1987, then the entire area remained neglected and began to decline. Fortunately, local residents demanded that state and governmental agencies designate a state park in the area and it finally happened in 1997 when Camp Helen State Park was opened. The historic buildings, water tower, pump house and cottages were all subsequently restored and today the park provides some of the best adventures in the entire Florida Panhandle.
The range of activities at Camp Helen State Park is enormous; what you do depends on whether you feel like a leisurely activity or a more strenuous one. One of the most popular activities is renting a kayak and moving along the water with a knowledgeable guide who provides a narrative about North America’s largest coastal dune lake. Additionally, park visitors can rent paddleboards as well as kayaks at the kiosk near the lodge. Camp Helen has two marked trails and several others that travel to the residential neighborhoods of Inlet Beach as well as the sand dunes themselves. The North Trail traverses Powell Lake for approximately two miles while the shorter Oak Canopy Trail meanders for nearly a mile through scrub oaks.
Visiting Camp St Helen State Park
In addition to the Great Outdoors, Camp St Helen State Park also rents the lodge for special events like weddings, company retreats, anniversary parties, etc. The park opens at 8am, 365 days a year, and admission is $4USD per vehicle. Additionally, the park holds several events throughout the year which include a summer movie series, a monthly history tour, eco-kayak tours, ranger-led trail excursions and occasionally an enchanting ghost tour during Halloween. In fact, according to legend as well as local residents, the grounds of Camp Helen State Park are haunted by those who tragically lost their lives in the area.