About 3 ½ miles down Key Deer Blvd. lies one of the most visited sites on the island of Big Pine Key, FL , The Blue Hole. The Blue Hole, the only freshwater lake in the Keys, is located in the National Key Deer Refuge. It started out as a quarry where the limestone used for many of Big Pine’s original roads was acquired. Since water flows neither in nor out, the only source of water for the wildlife that live there is rainfall. Under the freshwater is a lens of saltwater. Since freshwater is lighter than saltwater, the division remains relatively stable.
The Blue Hole has at least one alligator in residence. They like to lie, motionless, by the viewing platform, sunning themselves, while tiny fish nibble the algae from their hides. It is thrilling to see such a large, potentially dangerous animal from so close. When you consider that this is a predator which has remained virtually unchanged for millions of years, adapting as conditions changed, you have to feel awe.
Other residents of The Blue Hole include turtles, egrets, Green Herons and an amazing assortment of fish. Rumor has it that there is even a tarpon in residence, stranded after Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Tarpon are saltwater fish so if it is living there, that is an amazing bit of adaptation.
In the surrounding scrub pine lands live hawks, Green Iguanas, Turkey Vultures, Key Deer, Osprey and many others. Most, if not all of these are prey for the alligators, but all seem to live in harmony until dinner time. Then all bets are off.
The Blue Hole has plenty of parking, is handicapped accessible and usually has a volunteer on site to answer questions.