Mar 032018

Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge Ranger Kristie Killam guides children on a short hike to Long Beach in the National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is one of four here in the Florida Keys that will be celebrated during the upcoming Outdoor Fest, Saturday March 10th through Saturday, March 17th.

Whether you are a local or visitor to the Florida Keys, there are some ways to get wild that you need to consider—and they have nothing to do with margaritas. Home to more than 400,000 acres of protected wildlife that make up four National Wildlife Refuges— National Key Deer, Crocodile Lake, Great White Heron, and Key West National Wildlife Refuges— the Florida Keys offer a bounty of opportunities to witness its unique beauty and some of the world’s most endangered habitats, plants, and wildlife species.

Celebrate this natural beauty with US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex and their Friends group Florida Keys Wildlife Society during their third annual Outdoor Fest— a week of action-packed days filled with family-friendly, mostly free outdoor adventures and hands-on activities— from Saturday, March 10th through Saturday, March 17h. Let this brief “bucket list” of Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge activities inspire you to get out there, now.

A team of scientists and volunteers kayak Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in search of recently hatched crocodiles to capture, measure and release. The refuge, normally closed to the general public due to the number of extremely endangered species that inhabit it, will be open during special Outdoor Fest events that include kayak trips, educational nature walks, and history talks.

  1. Head out on the water at dawn or just before sunset, when the sea and the sky meet in a mirrored glaze and the light is otherworldly. Drift slowly to take it all in.
  2. Snorkel at the mangrove islands with mooring buoys in Key West NWR. Keep your eyes peeled for sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, sea hares, and— sharks. (Don’t worry.  You’re not on their menu).
  3. Kayak or stand-up paddle along the mangroves— the world’s third largest ecosystem. If you’re quiet enough and keep your distance, you’ll see one of 250 species of birds as they roost, hunt, or wade in any of the NWRs.
  4. Touch a Cassiopeia jellyfish on a dare and itch for the rest of the afternoon.  (Just kidding! Please don’t touch the wildlife).
  5.  Go fishing for bonefish, tarpon, and snapper in the backcountry waters of Great White Heron or Key West NWRs.
  6. Watch bottlenose dolphins hunt for their own fish along sandbars or ride your boat’s wake in glee.
  7. Snap a photo of the alligators as they nap happily at the Blue Hole in the National Key Deer Refuge and look for the ubiquitous but skittish Key deer, a tiny subspecies of the white-tailed deer found nowhere else in the world. (Resist the urge to feed or pet them. Not only is it bad for them, it’s illegal).
  8. Go biking on old State Road 4A on Lower Sugarloaf Key.
  9. Volunteer to build a stone house for the endangered Key Largo wood rat at Crocodile Lake NWR.
  10. Look up.  See an endangered American bald eagle soar by. Stare in awe at the cloud formations.  Count yourself lucky to have seen such sights in your lifetime.

The glory of National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge captured. Celebrate the four Florida Keys Wildlife Refuges during the upcoming Outdoor Fest, Saturday March 10th through Saturday, March 17th. Photo by Kristie Killam.

For more information about the refuges and the list of Outdoor Fest events, visit or contact Kristie Killam at 305.304.9625 or email Nancy or Jan at B rought to you in part by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.  Brought to you in part by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.








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 March 3, 2018  Posted by at 12:22 am Issue #258, Special Events, What To Do  Add comments