Five Blues Lake National Park is one of the most attractive
protected areas in Belize. The scenic lake with surrounding
karstic landscape with steep cliffs, numerous caves and
impressive forest make for great scenery. However, for a
number of reasons the park is undervalued and undervisitied.
The principal feature of the park is (or was) the karstic
lake. This lake with it's varying depths reflected in various
shades of blue which gave the park its name. The lake was
a picturesque area for having a picnic and a refreshing
The lake was formed as the result of some blockage of an
underground waterway. A very normal feature in karstic landscapes.
A number of smaller underground streams drained into the
lake but no known "exit" existed. The lake is
rumored to be as deep as 200 ft (60 m) at it's deepest spot.
But most parts of the lake were much shallower.
The shoreline of the lake consist(ed) of a belt of Eleocharis
sedges. In 2001, I carried out a short survey
in the park to find out whether these sedges were expanding
as rumored and threatening to overgrow the lake. The report
can be downloaded here.
The karstic nature of the lake appears to have become its
downfall. During the month of July 2006, it was noticed
by the park managers from Friends of Five Blues Lake that
the water level of the lake seemed to be going down, in
spite of the heavy rains of that time. Then on Thursday
the 20th of July 2006, people fishing in the lake allegedly
reported hearing a terrible noise coming from the lake "as
if the lake was crying". Following that, a big whirlpool
appeared in the lake and the fish in the lagoon started
jumping around frantically, upon which the fishermen fled
the scene. Finally, 0n July 24th, Dr.
Ed Boles from the University
of Belize reported the event to the authorities
and on the early morning of July the 25th, 2006 together
with technician Beverly Vansen of the Department
of the Environment I paid a quick visit and
made pictures. These pictures are represented below and
compared with the original situation.
|Five Blues Lake as seen
from the boat landing on the western lip of the lake
on the 22nd of May, 2001
|The same spot on July 25, 2006. The
blue drums are from the floating dock which disintegrated
as the water went down.
The pictures below represent panoramic pictures of the
lake comparing the old situation with the current situation.
All pictures by Jan Meerman. Click the picture for a larger
image (careful, large file sizes!).
Above the lake from the high
lookout spot on the southern shore on January 18, 2005 and
below from the same location the situation on July 25, 2006.
Above the situation from the same vantage
point but looking towards the NE, showing the northern lobe
of the lake on May 22, 2001 and Below the same on July 25,
All in all the lake level has come down roughly 5 meters
(15 ft) and reduced to approximately 25% of its original
surface. On the morning of the 25th, it appeared as if the
level was still subsiding slowly. Reports from the Forest
Department based on a site visit on the 26th, suggested
that the water level was still falling.
Interestingly, during the 2001 survey I noted a number
of subterranean inflows. During the July 2006 visit, only
one of these was still active (again note this is during
the rainy season when these should be flowing), the others
appeared to have dried up.
Now what happened? The most obvious explanation is that
the blockage that actually created the lake dissolved or
was otherwise removed. This might simply have been caused
by unusual pressure as the result of the heavy rains of
the weeks before the event. Everything points to a fairly
"normal" event in geological terms. This is just
something karstic lakes sometimes do. Seismic activities
could set off such an event, but no earthquakes
were reported anywhere near around the time of the event.
The big questions following this event appeared to be:
- Will the lake go down even further?
- Will the lake recover and return to its original level
(I wouldn't put any money on that)
- Will the new lake level stabilize or will it fluctuate
according to rainfall?
- What will happen to the original inflow points?
- Where did all the water go? (There are as yet unconfirmed
reports of unusual high water levels in caves within the
Sibun Forest Reserve).
- Will the park need to be renamed?
As it turns out, reports
from June 2007 indicate that waterlevels in
the lake are rising again! Nearly a year after the disappearing
act, early Wednesday morning June 27, 2007, villagers passing
through the National Park noticed that the lake had suddenly
filled with water.
2010 update. Still full of water, as if nothing happened!
In other words: Interesting stuff. Meanwhile do visit the
park and enjoy it, you never know.....
Love FM (2006)
5 (July 2007)
M. Day and B. Reynolds (2012) Five Blues Lake National Park, Belize: a cautionary management tale. Journal of Cave and Karst Studies,
v. 74, no. 2, p. 213–220.
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