Learn how to surf fish at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park July 31

surffishingDate/time: Friday July 31st, 2015, 1 – 2:30 p.m.

Surf fishing is a popular sport along the beaches of Topsail Hill. This program will teach you what types of bait will work, what times of year certain fish can be caught, and common fish you can catch from the beach. Fishing gear is optional, the park has fishing gear. This program will take place at the Beach Access, park in the Day Use parking area and catch the 1:00pm Tram to the beach. The program will take place once the 1:00pm Tram arrives at the beach. Enter the park through the main gate and park staff will direct you to the tram stop.

Admission into the park is free until Labor Day. Please stop by the ranger station for more details. Outside tours canceled during severe weather.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is located at 7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459. For more information, call (850) 267-8330 ::MAP::

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Guided kayak tour of Western Lake on Wednesdays in August

westernlakeTime: 9 – 11:30 a.m.

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA), in partnership with Northwest Florida State College, is offering the fall season of their popular eco-tourism initiative, Eco Adventures of Walton County.

Explore a coastal dune lake of South Walton County. This kayak tour will take you around Western Lake, one of the larger lakes of the coastal dune lake systems. Experience the diversity of wildlife and habitats that define these unique lake systems. This tour is led by the local and avid eco-tour guide Dave Posey.

Moderate to high exertion level, depending on wind conditions. Participants are asked to bring plenty of water, forecast compatible clothing and personal comfort items (i.e. sunscreen, bug spray, etc.). Kayak rental included in the cost of the tour.

Space is limited to 8 participants. Minimum of 3.

Location: Meet at the South Walton campus of Northwest Florida State College 109 South Greenway Trail, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459. Guide will lead a caravan to Grayton Beach State Park to launch boats.

Fee: $45 per person (Bring Your Own Boat) Class reference # XRL 6213. Date references numbers: 8/19/2015 #11261, 8/26/2015 #11410.

Fee: $60 per person for kayak supplied. Class reference #XRL6213A. Date reference numbers: 8/19/2015 #11283, 8/26/2015 #11424.

Discover Roads Less Traveled offers visitors and local residents extraordinary opportunities to explore, discover, and learn about the pristine natural resources that make Walton County unique. Descriptions of the tours being offered are available online at www.basinalliance.org by clicking the Eco Tours information box. Registration is available by phone at 850-200-4160.

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Learn to cast a net at Grayton Beach State Park July 29

castnetfisherman_01Date/time: Wednesday, July 29th at 2:00 p.m.

Join Ranger Rooster for a cast net fishing demonstration. Experience how to properly throw a cast net and learn what fish can be caught using the cast net. Participants will meet at the boat ramp parking area. Sunscreen, drinking water, appropriate clothing, and hat are suggested. This program will take approximately 1 hour.

Directions: Grayton Beach State Park is located South of U.S. 98 approximately halfway between Panama City Beach and Destin. Take County Road 283 south of U.S. 98, turn left at the stop sign on 30A. Approximately a 1/4 mile east of the intersection of County Road 30A and County Road 283 the entrance is on the right.

Contact: (850) 267-8300 for more information. All programs are subject to change. Outside programs will be cancelled during severe weather/rain.

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Free movie night at the Lakeyard in DeFuniak Springs Aug. 7

percyjacksonThe Special Events Committee of the City of DeFuniak Springs is pleased to present August Movie Night on Friday, August 7, 2015. This annual family-oriented, back-to-school event has become a tradition and will be held in the amphitheatre at the Lake yard again this year.

The movie is “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” the 2010 action film which is taken from the opening story in the five book series by Rick Riordan and directed by Chris Columbus. The plot revolves around sixteen-year-old Percy Jackson who discovers that he is the son of Poseidon, Greek god of the seas.

Percy goes to Camp Half-Blood, a training camp for demigods who are the half-mortal children of Greek gods. The story involves kidnapping, theft, false accusations and other adventures. Action-packed, exciting, suspenseful a film every member of the family will enjoy.

The movie starts at 7:30 p.m. on the big screen and is shown free of charge. There will be concessions available so plan to come early, spend a pleasant evening by the lake, and then stay for the movie.

Further information is available by calling city hall at 850-892-8500.

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Walton county fishing report for July 22

flounder1Fishing is good!

Bay: Good trout bite going on, some on the large size. Still redfish bite going on, along with the shrimp getting bigger. A few flounder being gigged and caught.

Prayers go out to the James Canaday family.

Click here for fishing forecast

Bay and river report brought to you by Copeland’s. “Where the locals shop and the tourists are welcome.”

Click here to find out more about Copeland’s.
Copeland’s Gun and Tackle Shop
17290 U.S. Hwy. 331 S
Freeport, Florida 32439

(850) 835-4277
Store hours:
Mon. – Fri.: 6 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sat.: 6 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sun.: Closed

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Leatherback sea turtle nests at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

The leatherback turtle nest is 18 ft. across. Photo courtesy Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

The leatherback turtle nest is 18 ft. across. Photo courtesy Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

This past Sunday,  South Walton received a very special visitor. Along the beach of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, a leatherback sea turtle came ashore to nest.  Leatherbacks are the largest of all sea turtles in Florida, and are endangered.

The track from the beach to the nest was 7 feet across. The nest’s body pit was 18 feet across, Assistant Park Manager, George Royal informed us.

The leatherback tracks are 7 ft. across. Photo courtesy Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

The leatherback tracks are 7 ft. across. Photo courtesy Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

Nesting leatherbacks are a rarity in the Florida Panhandle, with less than a half a dozen nests documented over the last five years according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission survey. Only one was laid in Walton county over that period of time. Nesting leatherbacks are more prevalent along the east coast. Click here to learn more: Leatherback nesting data.

There are four species of turtles that nest in the Florida Panhandle. The most common is loggerhead, along with green turtle, an occasional Kemp’s Ridley, and most uncommon, leatherback. Another Florida species, hawksbill, can be found in South Florida.

About the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

The leatherback is a fascinating and unique animal, even among sea turtles. It is larger, dives deeper, travels farther, and tolerates colder waters than any other sea turtle. Most leatherbacks average 6 feet in length and weigh from 500 to 1,500 pounds, but the largest leatherback on record was nearly 10 feet long and weighed more than 2,000 pounds.

Nesting leatherback turtle. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Nesting leatherback turtle. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Leatherbacks look distinctively different from other sea turtles. Instead of a shell covered with scales or shields, leatherbacks are covered with a firm, leathery skin and have seven ridges running lengthwise down their backs. They are usually black with white, pink, and blue splotches and have no claws on their flippers. Leatherbacks eat soft-bodied animals such as jellyfish, and their throat cavity and scissor-like jaws are lined with stiff spines that aid in swallowing this soft and slippery prey. Young leatherbacks in captivity can consume twice their weight in jellyfish daily.

True denizens of the deep, leatherbacks are capable of descending more than 3,000 feet and of traveling more than 3,000 miles from their nesting beach. They are found throughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, as far north as Alaska and Labrador. Researchers have found that leatherbacks are able to regulate their body temperature so that they can survive in cold waters. The leatherback is found in Florida’s coastal waters, and a small number (from 30 to 60 a year) nest in the state.

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Explore the sights and sounds of nature at night July 29

nonieDates/times:  July 29 – 7:30 – 9 p.m.

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA), in partnership with Northwest Florida State College, announces the summer season of its popular eco-tourism initiative, Eco Adventures of Walton County.

Discover the sights and sounds of nature at night. Nonie’s Ark Animal Encounters will guide evening Eco-Adventures for the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance this summer on Wednesdays. A minimum of five Eventurer’s are needed and a maximum of 25. We will meet at some of Walton County’s exceptional biodiverse habitats and explore for elusive creatures such as fox, owls, frogs and especially bats. All are invited but focus is on ages 4-10. Bring a flashlight or headlamp to light your way and come properly dressed for heat and ready to repel bugs. The tours will lead out of various locations throughout Walton County. Space is limited to 25. Minimum of 5 required.
Fee: $15
June 29, 2015 tour will be held at Seven Runs Park on SR 81 in Bruce.

Discover Roads Less Traveled offers visitors and local residents extraordinary opportunities to explore, discover, and learn about the pristine natural resources that make Walton County unique. Descriptions of the tours being offered are available online at www.basinalliance.org by clicking the Eco Tours information box. Registration is available by phone at 850-200-4160. Click here to download reference # info: Summer 2015 ECOTOUR DESCRIPTIONS


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Movie, food, and fun at Camp Helen State Park July 29

EDIT_FINAL_Camp Helen Movies_flierDate/time: July 29, 5:30 p.m.

Camp Helen State Park is offering a summer full of movies, food and fun with a series of family-oriented movies, interpretive programs, and old-fashioned campfire cookouts.

On Wednesday, July 29, “The Princess and the Frog” will be the last film shown in the 2015 series. This movie involves a hard working waitress Tiana, who dreams of owning her own restaurant. After kissing a prince who’s been turned into a frog by an evil witch doctor, Tiana becomes a frog herself. (Rated G). The interpretive program topic will be on frogs.

The evening will start at 5:30 p.m. in the Recreation Hall with a brief interpretive program led by Florida Park Rangers or other experts. The program will be followed by a cookout including hotdogs and s’mores, provided by the Friends of Camp Helen. Each evening will end with a family movie in the Recreation Hall, where seating will be provided.

A parent or guardian must accompany children.

These special movie nights are sponsored by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, Camping World, and the Friends of Camp Helen State Park. Admission into the park is free, although donations are accepted. Donations will go directly to the Friends of Camp Helen State Park to benefit the park’s resource management projects and interpretive programs.

Driving Directions
Camp Helen is located at 23937 Panama City Beach Parkway, Panama City Beach, FL, just west of the Phillips Inlet bridge on the Bay County and Walton county line. The entrance is south of U.S. Hwy 98. ::MAP::

More information is available at www.friendsofcamphelen.org, facebook.com/FriendsOfCampHelenStatePark, by calling (850) 233-5059, or by emailing [email protected]

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What you need to know about vibrio bacteria in Gulf waters

The rod-shaped bacterium known as Vibrio. Photo courtesy Florida International University

The rod-shaped bacterium known as Vibrio. Photo courtesy Florida International University

After the recent report of a fatality due to the Vibrio bacteria near Tampa many locals have become concerned about their safety when entering the Gulf of Mexico this time of year. So what are the risks and how do you protect yourself?

What is the flesh eating disease Vibrio?

Vibrio vulnificus is a salt-loving rod-shaped bacteria that is common in brackish waters. As with many bacteria, their numbers increase with increasing temperatures. Though the organism can be found year round they tend peak in July and August and remain elevated until temperature decline.

How do people contract Vibrio?

The most common methods of contact with Vibrio are entrance through open wounds exposed to seawater or marine animals and by consuming raw or undercooked shellfish, primarily oysters. The bacterium can also be contracted by eating food that is either served, and has made contact with, raw or undercooked shellfish or the juice of raw or undercooked shellfish.

What is the risk of serious health problems after contracting Vibrio?

Cases of Vibrio infection are rare and the risk of serious health problems is much higher for humans who are have a suppressed or compromised immune system, liver disease or blood disorders such as iron overload (hemochromatosis). Examples include HIV positive, in the process of cancer treatment, and studies show a particularly high risk for those with a chronic liver disease. The Center for Disease Control indicates that humans who are immunocompromised have an 80 times higher chance of serious health issues from Vibrio than healthy people. He also found that most cases involve males over the age of 40. According to the Center for Disease Control there were about 900 cases reported between 1988 and 2006; averaging around 50 cases each year. The Florida Department of Health reported 32 cases of Vibrio infections within Florida in 2014 with 7 of these begin fatal. Five of the cases were in the Florida panhandle but none were fatal. So far this year in Florida there have been 11 cases statewide, 5 of those fatal. Only 1 case was in the panhandle and it was nonfatal. Though 43 cases and 12 fatalities over the last two years in Florida are reasons for concern, when compared to the number of humans who enter marine and brackish water systems every day across the state, the numbers are quite low.

What are the symptoms of Vibrio infection?

For healthy people who consume Vibrio containing shellfish symptoms could include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Wounds exposed to seawater that become infected will show redness and swelling. For the at-risk populations described above the bacteria will enter the bloodstream and rapidly cause fever and chills, decreased blood pressure, and blistering skin lesions. For these at-risk population 50% of the cases are fatal and death generally occurs within 48 hours.

It is important that anyone who believes they are at high risk and have the above symptoms that they seek medical attention as quickly as possible.

How can I protect myself from Vibrio infection?

We recommend anyone who has a chronic liver condition, hemochromatosis, or any other immune suppressing medical condition, not consume raw or undercooked filter-feeding shellfish and not enter the water if they have an open wound.

The Center of Disease Control recommends

  • If harvesting or purchasing uncooked shellfish do not consume any whose shells are already open
  • Keep all shellfish on ice and drain melted ice
  • If steaming, do so until the shell opens and then for 9 more minutes
  • If frying, do so for 10 minutes at 375°F
  • Avoid foods served, and has had contact with, raw or poorly cooked shellfish or that has had contact with raw shellfish juice
  • If shucking oysters at a fish house or restaurant, wear protective gloves

It is also important to know that the bacteria does NOT change the appearance or odor of the shellfish product, so you cannot tell by looking at them whether they are good or bad.

For more information on this bacteria visit:



Information provided by Rick O’Connor, Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County[email protected]



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Americorps NWF Environmental Stewards now hiring

2.AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Steward member teaching children to plant sea oats as part of a dune restoration project at Topsail Hill State Park.

2. AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Steward member teaching children to plant sea oats as part of a dune restoration project at Topsail Hill State Park.

Applications accepted until July 29

AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Stewards is now taking applications for the 2015-2016 program year. AmeriCorps is a component of the National Service Network. Its goal is to engage Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service to help meet communities’ critical education, public safety, environmental, and other human needs. AmeriCorps is often referred to as the “Domestic Peace Corps.” AmeriCorps members gain an opportunity to make a big difference in their lives and in the lives of others.

americorpslogoThe local AmeriCorps team serves Okaloosa and Walton Counties by working hard to protect and restore our precious natural resources. Winner of 2014’s Florida AmeriCorps Program of the Year, NWF Environmental Stewards partner with Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) to provide a workforce that helps to implement and enhance important environmental programs. Primarily, NWF Environmental Stewards acts as a mobile education team, bringing Grasses in Classes—a monthly, hands-on environmental science education program–to around 2000 Okaloosa and Walton County 3rd– and 5th– graders. When the NWF Environmental Stewards are not in the classroom, they take a direct role in the restoration of vital oyster, salt marsh, coastal dune lake and wetland habitats. Members of the NWF Environmental Stewards commit to 12 months of service and receive a living stipend, an educational award and limited benefits.

If you or someone you know is interested in spending a year serving our community, please go to www.nwfsc.edu/community/AmeriCorps to learn more about their program!

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