Manatee Encounters in Florida
I heard about the manatee festival on the radio. It was early February and finally starting to feel like winter in Florida. A temperature drop brings the manatees in from the frigid ocean water to the warm waters of the springs. My first trip to see the manatees was at Blue Spring State Park. The park is small, but the trail around the springs is breathtaking. The water is an aqua blue, completely see through.
Blue Spring State Park
Blue Spring State Park is an ethereal spring manatees visit during the cold winter months. These graceful creatures flow through the warm, clear blue waters, their winter home a tranquil serenity. Long branches lean over transparent waters, moss sways gently in the breeze, bright green leaves contrast from afar. Even without the manatees, the park is a sight to see. When you park, the first path leads to an overlook where you can see the manatees. As I gazed into the waters I was fascinated by the manatees and their submerged world.
The trail to the left takes you on a walk beside the waters where you can see the spring and manatees through the trees. There are a couple more viewing points along the trail. There’s even a dock where you can see where the springs meet the ocean. Alligators are in the area as well! In fact, my second time back the first thing I saw in the water I thought was a manatee, but as it got closer it turned out to be an alligator.
The trail on the right it takes you through the jungle; you won’t be able to see manatees as it takes you away from the water, but leads you straight to the spring. It’s a beautiful walk.
Manatees at Blue Spring State Park
The first viewing platform gets you close to the manatees, but even close-up you can’t fully realize how large they are! Manatees are called sea cows for a reason.
I even got to see a baby manatee swimming alongside its mother. These creatures are never in a rush. They glide majestically through the waters, their tails moving up and down, and you can see why they were mistaken for mermaids.
Information on Blue Spring State Park
I’ve been to Blue Spring State Park twice to see the manatees and both times the line to park was long. The park even hits capacity at times, so it’s best to go early. You can’t get in the water when manatees are present, but there is a dock off the start of the trail where you are very close to them. Manatees swim under and around this dock and the two other viewing areas that are over the springs. Families came and brought picnics to eat for lunch while they spent the day relaxing and enjoying the sights of the park. You can snorkel in the springs during the summer. Blue Spring State Park is about an hour north of Orlando.
Update on 12/16/2016:
I went swimming with manatees in Crystal River! It was such an amazing adventure. Read about it here