Monday, May 6, 2013

Manatee Springs State Park

*Manatee Springs State Park is in northwest Florida.  Little Manatee River SP and Lake Manatee are located in central west coast of Florida, so make sure you have the right parking when making camping reservations.

Manatee seems to be a commonly used name for state parks here in Florida.  But, if you have ever seen a manatee you will understand why...

Manatees are large mammals that have a face that resembles a dog.  They have the cutest faces you have ever seen.  These amazing creatures are mammals and can not survive in the Gulf of Mexico or any body of water that is colder than the springs.  When the tempterture dips in the winter the manatees seek refuge in the springs.  The springs stay in-between 68-72 degrees all year, which the manatees love.  But the springs and rivers do not hold enough food for the manatees to survive so they venture back out in to the ocean as soon as it's warm enough to do so. 

Manatee numbers are rising by education and popularity.  They  swim shallow so boats are a huge risk. The State of Florida implementing no wake zones has helped.   They are always at risk when the temps drop before they can take cover.   

While traveling around the state of Florida you will see not only parks, springs, rivers, lakes, ports, hospitals, cities, counties and businesses all bear the name of this docile creature that we have all fell in love with.

There are three state parks, all very different, with Manatee Springs being 4 hours north of the river and lake.  We have visited all three parks and I want to share in my experience.  I will  start from the north and work my way down.

 Manatee Springs State Park

Manatee Springs is gorgeous! We set out on a camping trip here not because of the springs, but because of it remote location. We were looking for a dark area in Florida to watch the meteor shower.  We arrived late, almost 10pm.  We parked Krazy karl, our 1979 vintage VW Bus, as quietly as we could. While the entire campground was settling down for a nights sleep, Mike and I were excited as our night was just getting started. We had the entire park to ourselves. We spent the first half an hour laying on the picnic table star gazing, as we do not see these stars in St Pete.  We then headed out to find the perfect place to watch the show.  We found a boardwalk right by the canoe launch and started out on a journey.  After stopping at several spots to checkout the view, the trail ended where the springs meets the Suwannee River.  There we found a long floating dock that was perfect!  The moon did not rise till 4 am and the milky way was in clear view.  It was a fantastic show and no doubt did we find a dark space we were in search for. 
Around dusk we looked out and deer were everywhere.  We saw baby's with white spots and dads with horns.  They are very tame and were everywhere!

The next day, we kayaked the manatee springs before she spills into the Swanee River.  It was a short kayak trip because we did not kayak the River.  We have been boating on the Swanee before and ran into some Gar. They are pre-hitsoric looking creatures that will cut you.  We were not sure of the Gar, so we turned around and  kayaked the run back to the canoe launch.  

We then took a hike on the trail to see what it looked like during the day.  After the short hike we were ready to hit the springs.  Boy were they cold!   I floated a few times, but Mike did one quick dip and waited for me..

Manatee Springs was the first-magnitude spring at this park and produces an average of 100 million gallons of clear, cool water daily.  In winter, West Indian manatees swim up river to the warmer water of the springs.  Popular for snorkeling and scuba diving, the head water springs are also a great place for swimming.  The spring begins with a sparkling stream that meanders thru-out the hardwood wetlands to the Suwannee River. 

 A local outfitter provides beverages and canoe/kayk rentals.
They allow dogs to swim at the canoe launch.  :)

 Children can enjoy the playground in the picnic area and hiking and bicycling are available on the north end trail system.  The full-facility campground is surrounded by red oak woods.  

Besides snorkeling the springs, they also offer diving.  We are camping in front of a hole with duck weed floating on it. The divers would go down this hole and enter a tunnel and come out at another location.  It was really cool to watch as the bubbles moved the duckweed to show you the gorgeous clear water under neath.

Events:  Manatee awareness month in January, Family fun day in July, Public Lands Day River Clean Up in September, and Clay Landing Day in November,

Located:  at the end of State Road 320, off U.S. 19/98, six miles west of Chiefland.      11650 N.W. 115th Street, Chiefland FL 32626        (352) 493-6072

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