Manatees cannot stand to be in water below 68 degrees for extended periods of time. They will go into "cold stress" and can die. Therefore, in the winter, they often seek out the warm waters of Florida's numerous natural springs. Blue Spring State Park is one of those places where manatees congregate in the 72-degree waters, and it's a great place to see them because of the crystal clear water.
Just a week ago, there was a record count of 466 manatees in the springs. So, we made plans with Lee & Edie and Steve & Tina to go to the park this morning. It's about an hour and fifteen minute drive from here, and we decided to leave at 8:00 a.m. for two reasons.
First, there isn't enough food (aquatic vegetation) in the spring run so the manatees have to go out into the St. John's River to feed. As the day gets warmer, the river water warms up and the manatees leave the clear water of the springs. So, we wanted to arrive early enough to see the most manatees before they headed out.
Second, the park only allows a certain number of visitors in at a time. When it gets full, you have to wait out on the road outside the entrance until people leave. Then it's one car in for each car that departs. We wanted to get there when there were fewer people and before it filled up. Since it was a Saturday, it was especially important to arrive early.
Steve & Tina brought their friends Bruce & Pat, and Lee & Edie rode with us. We got in just fine although there were already a lot of people there and huge numbers of kids. The sign at the entrance station showed a count of 339 manatees.
We started our walk along the spring run near the mouth where it empties into the St. John's. This is one of my favorite places to view manatees as it's still a natural setting and the water is so clear.
Not only that, but the manatees here are pretty active. They are more fun to watch when they aren't just resting on the bottom. :)
Here's a little video.
A boardwalk with several viewing areas hugs the spring run allowing the people to spread out a bit.
When it's not manatee "high" season, the run is open for swimming, snorkeling, and tubing, but all water activities are suspended during this time. A crowd gathered at the swim/snorkel dock ...
for views up ....
and down the run.
The dock allows for the closest views of the manatees and fish.
Past the gift shop is another boardwalk leading to the headsprings, about a 10-minute walk.
There was a large group of very active manatees there.
Once in awhile, a head would pop up out of the water.
Here's a two and a half minute video of the playful group. You may want to mute the background noise. :)
So, after yesterday's large variety of wildlife on our Silver River paddle, today we were focused on one species - the Florida manatee (which is a subspecies of the West Indiana Manatee). It was a great morning, and I believe all the others enjoyed it. :)
The protection efforts for the manatee have been very successful and, in fact, just this month it was announced that the manatee is going to come off the endangered species list. They will still be classified as threatened, but they are no longer in danger of extinction.
Of course manatee viewing is the main reason to visit Blue Spring State Park this time of year, but there are a few other activities. There is a historic house, and St. John's River Cruises offers nature tours on the St. John's River as well as canoe and kayak rentals and guided paddling tours.
After our morning manatee viewing, Linda found us a lunch spot in Orange City - LaSpada's, known for their cheesesteaks and hoagies. The sandwiches are delicious. I first thought the prices were a little high, especially the side items, but then I realized I've paid similar prices at Subway for less food and much less quality. It turned out to be a great choice, and Linda has leftovers for tomorrow.
Back home, I settled in for an afternoon and evening of watching college basketball. It started badly as my Louisville Cardinals got humiliated at home by Virginia. That's not a good sign since their next game is against #1-ranked North Carolina. Could be ugly. :)
Linda started this thing called "arm knitting". She watched some online videos and decided to give it a try. I have no idea what brought that on, but she took a couple selfies with her new arm-knitted whatever-it-is. :)
Later that night, I grilled a couple pork chops and she made us a couple baked potatoes for dinner. Last night she made my favorite - breakfast for dinner including pecan-filled pancakes with our bacon and eggs. Yum.
After all the college basketball I wanted to watch, we watched Part I of the "History of the Eagles". With Glen Frey, one of the founding members of the band, passing away this month, it was an interesting look back at how they came together and wrote many of their hits. Definitely one of our favorite groups, and it made me want to listen to more of their music.
Well, that was about it for another day. Friends, manatees, good food, college basketball, and the music of the Eagles - not a bad Saturday in our life on the road. :)