Manatee Springs State Park is near Chiefland, and home to home of Florida’s largest freshwater springs. Named after the West Indian Manatees that winter there, I really hoped to see them—but the ranger said we missed them by about 2 weeks! That seems to be SOP on the trip, either a week or two early or late for the local hot spots.
The springs is a first magnitude spring—that means it discharges at least 65 million gallons a day. That’s a whole lot of water as far as I’m concerned. The temperature is 72 degrees year round, which is why the Manatees like it. It’s an amazing color, almost turquoise. It was Saturday, and there were a lot of campers, adults and kids playing in the water.
We crossed the bridge and went a little ways on the North Trail. It wasn’t very interesting, sometimes hard to even see where the trail was going, so we turned around. I did like the fungus that looked like oysters though.
We followed the boardwalk through the cypress swamp along the spring outlet, down to the Suwannee River (that’s the Swanee River Stephen Foster made famous in the “Old Folks at Home” song). The mullet were running (that’s a kind of fish that jumps a lot) but I could hardly see them. The colorful mini-kayaks were more fun than fish anyway.
At the end of the boardwalk was a fishing pier. We hung around there for awhile, just watching the activity on the river. Didn’t see any manatees; didn’t see any alligators; didn’t see any gulf sturgeon. It wasn’t a bust—there were a whole bunch of turtles floating in the green gunk. Not sure if the stuff was moss or algae, but it was in great clumps all around the pier. The turtles would come up under it, and it would drape their shells. Looked awful...
I really wanted to see a Manatee!