Okaloosa at a Glance
|Cinco Bayou, Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Laurel Hill, Mary Esther, Niceville, Shalimar, Valparaiso|
|Sandy Beaches||24 miles|
|Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail||5 sites|
|State Parks & Lands||Acres|
|Rocky Bayou State Park||367|
|Henderson Beach State Park||219|
|Rocky Bayou Aquatic Preserve||480|
|Blackwater River State Forest||209,610|
|Yellow River Water Management Area||17,742|
|Gulf Islands National Seashore (Escambia, Santa Rosa)||66,549|
|Choctawhatchee National Forest||218|
|Eglin Air Force Base (Santa Rosa, Walton)||463,448|
|Hurlburt Field Air Force Base||6,634|
|Bays & Inlets|
|Choctawhatchee Bay, East Pass, Boggy, Cinco, Garnier, Hogtown, La Grange & Rocky bayous, Moreno Point|
|Rivers & Paddling Trails|
|Blackwater River, Yellow River, Shoal River, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail|
Okaloosa County, much like other Panhandle counties, beckons tourists to sugar-white sand beaches and sparkling green waters. Over 60% of Okaloosa's beaches are in conservation with many rare and endangered species.
The Fort Walton Beach-Destin-Crestview area is one of the Panhandle coast's most populated areas, characterized by miles of beaches, popular beach resorts, year-round fishing and water activities, leaping dolphins, coastal parks, fishing fleets, and fresh seafood restaurants.
Okaloosa has a strong military influence. Eglin Air Force occupies 13 miles of coast, which are closed to the public. "Okaloosa" is Choctaw Indian for "black water," the dark-tea color of area rivers. Various Indian tribes have lived here since 500 B.C., including mound-building Indians of the "Fort Walton Culture" (1100-1550 AD). New settlers arrived in 1838 and Confederate soldiers set up camp next to the prehistoric Indian Temple Mound in 1861.
Area attractions include the 1955 Gulfarium, U.S. Air Force Armament Museum, Destin Fishing Museum, The Focus Center for children of all ages and the Indian Temple Mound and Museum (America's most extensive collection of prehistoric ceramic artifacts). Reef divers can explore a submerged petrified forest, sunken ships, railroad box cars and airplanes and discover immense shells, four-foot basket sponges, purple sea whips, yellow angelfish, six-foot manta rays, and 350- pound loggerhead sea turtles. Visitors also like to pontoon, parasail, water-ski, sail or windsurf on the gulf and bay, game-fish on the deep sea or freshwater-fish in area rivers.
The 27-mile Choctawhatchee Bay covers 129 square miles of bayous, creeks and rivers in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Rocky Bayou Aquatic Preserve and Rocky Bayou State Park are on the northern edge of the bay. The endangered Okaloosa darter is protected by this scenic preserve of forested wetlands, marshes, low bluffs, and grass beds. Okaloosa's three major rivers and two pristine wilderness preservations, Blackwater River State Forest and Eglin Reservation, offer tubing or canoeing down crystal-clear rivers, camping and hiking amid acres of pine, hickory and maple. Other recreation includes horseback rides and amusement parks with dune buggy races, bumper boats, batting cages, water slides and putt-putt golf.