The other day, early morning fog gave way to bright sunshine which warmed the earth and begged us to come outdoors and enjoy the beautiful day. There was very little breeze to speak of which conjured up the idea in my head to get out on the water for a couple hours of paddling through the calm waters of a magical coastal dune lake.
The scenery is nothing but spectacular and my senses came alive as I slowly glided through the slightly tannic water. I took my camera and fly rod not knowing which instrument I would feel like using. Fly casting can be calming, unnerving, frustrating and rewarding all at the same time. So I did a little of both. When my casting efforts yielded nothing I turned to the camera hoping the shutter would.
A raft of coots tried to secretly hide in the cattails as I rounded the bend. Also called “mud hens” these birds are commonly mistaken for being ducks but are in a totally different family. In Louisiana, you may find them in gumbo or if you are in Toledo you will find them to be the mascot of your local minor league baseball team.
Western Lake (my paddling destination) is one of fifteen coastal dune lakes dotting the coastline of south Walton County. According to the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, these lakes are designated as "imperiled globally because of rarity and critically imperiled in the state of Florida because of extreme rarity." Not only do they add scenic beauty but they perform indispensable wetland functions that provide habitat for a wide variety of unique flora and fauna, reduce storm surge, filter nutrients, and exist as a natural estuarine system between the Gulf of Mexico and upland areas.
Bald eagles routinely nest along the lake and are frequent sightings.
Western Lake frequently delivers some of the most stunning sunrises.