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Plan Your Visit

planvisitbluehole


Address and Contact Information

Administration and Office:

Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex
28950 Watson Blvd.
Big Pine Key, FL 33043
Phone- 305-872-2239
keydeer@fws.gov
Hours- by appointment

Visitor Center:

National Key Deer Refuge
179 Key Deer Blvd.
Big Pine Key, FL 33043
305-872-0774
keydeer@fws.gov
Open 9AM-4PM eastern time Mon-Fri, 10AM-3PM eastern time Weekends (when volunteers available)

 

Points of Interest  

Visitor Center- located on Big Pine Key, this location serves as the visitor center for all four Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges.  You’ll find a wealth of information here including where to see the Key deer,  ideas about places to get outdoors, upcoming and ongoing events, and exhibits and displays.

Blue Hole Observation Platform- located just a few miles north of the visitor center on Key Deer Blvd, the Blue Hole area provides a great opportunity for people of all ages and abilities to get outdoors and view our native wildlife.  Blue Hole was originally a limestone quarry; it is now filled with freshwater, and shaded  by native plants.  There is a short, paved trail from the paved parking lot to the observation platform, making it accessible to all people.  Typical wildlife species include: American alligator, osprey, green herons and other wading birds, anhinga, magnificent frigatebirds, white-crowned pigeon, white-eyed vireo, blue-gray gnatcatcher and many more.  Many turtles and fish call the Blue Hole home as well, including some wayward tarpon who got stuck there after the storm surge of Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

Nature Trails- These interpretive trails are located a ¼ mile north of the Blue Hole, on Key Deer Blvd.  There are two trails here; the Mannillo Trail, named in honor of Fred Mannillo, a local environmental advocate, is a short out and back trail, composed of crushed limestone.  There are two benches located along the trail to relax and enjoy nature and the trail ends at an observation platform that is situated within a freshwater wetland area.  The Watson Trail, named for the first Refuge Manager Jack Watson, is a 2/3 mile loop trail through pine rockland, freshwater wetland and hardwood hammock habitat.  These trails are located in full sun, so plan your trip accordingly.  In summer they are best visited early in the morning and then later in the day, towards sunset.

 

Know Before You Go 

The best place to start your visit is the Visitor Center.  It is open daily during the week from 9 AM. to 4 PM, and 10 AM -3 PM on weekends.  The Visitor Center is accessible to all, and staffed with volunteers and refuge personnel who can answer questions and provide information.  The Visitor Center is also home to our Friends nature store, filled with nature-oriented books and gifts.  Proceeds directly benefit the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges. 

 

  • Dress for conditions:  The National Key Deer Refuge is open year round and sometimes environmental conditions can be harsh. Be prepared for temperatures in the 80's and 90's April-November.  Make sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses and bug spray (seasonally) to ensure your safety and comfort while enjoying the Refuge.  We’d even recommend light long sleeved shirts and pants if you haven’t been out in the sun much, and comfortable shoes (not flip flops).  You don’t often need bug spray, but after seasonal rains mosquitoes might be a problem.
  • Please drive the speed limit.  Key deer, endangered lower Keys marsh rabbits, box and marsh turtles and other wildlife species may cross the roads at any time, please keep an eye out for them.
  • Dogs Permitted on Leashes:  Dogs are permitted on trails on leash; make sure they are on a leash no longer than 6’ long.
  • Dangerous Plants and Wildlife: Although rare, diamondback rattlesnakes and alligators are found in the National Key Deer Refuge.  Use caution when hiking on rustic trails and fire roads.  There are several plants that can cause harm if contact with skin occurs.  The poisonwood tree is similar to poison ivy and poison oak (same oil), it is a common tree in the refuge.  Visit the visitor center to familiarize yourself with this tree before exploring.

 

Help Keep Wildlife Wild- Do not feed key deer, alligators or other wildlife; it habituates them to people, leading to potentially dangerous situations for people and wildlife. 

Page Photo Credits — Blue Hole Visitors: Kristie Killam/USFWS
Last Updated: Nov 10, 2015
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