It’s called Gator Lake, and the name is well-deserved. Created when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the St. Andrew channel between 1933 and 1934, Gator Lake is now well-known for its alligator population. Other wildlife seek refuge there, including a rookery of the majestic great blue heron. The interpretive trail at Gator Lake is an easy walk that offers fantastic vistas of coast and scrub forest as well as isolated patches of rare Florida rosemary scrub.
The maritime hammock, or forest, that surrounds Gator Lake is a unique environment home to many iconic Florida animals. Insects, small mammals, reptiles and birds are numerous. Common inhabitants include wading birds such as great blue herons, great egrets, snowy egrets, little blue herons, tricolored herons and the secretive yellow-crowned night heron. Large raptors like Cooper’s hawks, great horned owls and bald eagles also use maritime hammock for feeding, roosting and nesting. Reptiles include the Florida soft-shelled turtle, southern black racers and the gulf salt marsh snake, as well as many species of small skinks and lizards.