South Walton's Wilds
WALTON COUNTY, Fla. – May 2, 2018– Walton County is known for its pristine beaches and turquoise waters but what most visitors don’t know is that over 40 percent of Walton County’s land is preserved land. With four state parks hosting over 200 miles trails, rare coastal dune lakes, and 26 miles of beach, South Walton is the ultimate outdoorsman’s paradise.
The beauty of South Walton’s wild yet tranquil terrain is easy to see on a surface level, but there is, even more, to discover when you dive below the surface.
Located just off the shore of our sugar-white sands, visitors can come face to face with a different type of South Walton local while exploring one of our 4 near-shore artificial reefs. These reefs are home to various species of fish, octopus, corals and sea turtles who call the Gulf waters of Walton County home. The reef systems are close enough to the shore that they can easily be reached by kayak or paddleboard, both popular past times for locals and visitors alike. Andy McAlexander of the South Walton Artificial Reef Association board said of the reefs, “We wanted to do something that would have both an ecological and economic impact on the community.”
Each reef is styled after local marine life, the Sea Turtle shaped reef, implemented in 2015, was the first system completed. The Turtle reef was built approximately 200 yards offshore at Grayton Beach State Park and spans approximately 400 feet long by 200 feet wide. The sibling reefs, completed in summer of 2017, are shaped like a Seahorse, located off Topsail Beach, a Cobia off Inlet Beach and a Dolphin situated off the shore of Miramar Beach. They are 4 of the 19 total artificial reefs planned for the South Walton artificial reef project.
In addition to these underwater attractions, South Walton will soon be home to the first permanent, underwater sculpture park in the United States. The development is a partnership between the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County and the South Walton Reef Association. The artwork will be positioned approximately 60 feet below the surface, a little over half a mile off of Grayton Beach State Park. Currently over 90 percent of the coastal waters off of South Walton are barren sand flats, the combination of sculptures and artificial reef systems will provide a source of biological replenishment and positive economic impact for surrounding communities. Visitors can plan on exploring this new development summer of this year.