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2001 Five Blues Lake Eleocharis survey Report. pdf 217 kb.

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.

National Protected Areas Policy and Systems Plan

 

Five Blues Lake National Park Blues

The collapse (and revival) of the Five Blues Lake Karstic Lake

Cayo District, Belize

Jan Meerman, 2006 -2007

The 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 swim.

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, 2006.

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.....

See also:

Love FM (2006)

Channel 5 (2006)

Channel 5 (July 2007)

Channel 7 (2006)

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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