8www.LowerKeys CHAMBER .com VISIT DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK aboard the Yankee Free III Ferry Call for Reservations: 305.294.7009
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As the least people-populated
section of the island chain, the
majority of the Lower Keys’
inhabitants have four legs, fins
or feathers. No visit would be
complete without encountering
some of the native wildlife.
The National Key Deer
Refuge covers nearly 9,200
acres on Big Pine Key and No
Name Key. Key Deer are a
diminutive, endangered species that stand only 26 to 32 inches
high at the shoulder and weigh a “whopping” 90 pounds.
Feeding or engaging them is illegal, because it makes them
far too comfortable around humans and automobiles.
Nature lovers will find a variety of activities within the
refuge. Blue Hole, an abandoned limestone quarry from railroad
days, is the largest body of freshwater in the Keys and home to
fish, turtles and alligators. An observation platform affords the
opportunity to view native wildlife up close.
Just north of Blue Hole are the 2/3-mile Jack C. Watson
Trail and the 800-foot handicapped-accessible Fred Mannillo
Wildlife Trail, the latter of which leads to an observation
platform overlooking freshwater wetland. Both trails are ideal
for spotting Key Deer.
The Great White Heron National Refuge encompasses a
174-square-mile area between Key West and Marathon. It is
also a mecca for birders, as there are more than 180 avian
More untamed natural beauty can be found at Bahia Honda State
Park. The beach here is said to be the most beautiful in the Keys
and because of its adjacent deep water channel, activities tend to
be centered on the water, including swimming and snorkeling.