|Manatees at Blue Spring State Park|
One of the most magical wildlife experiences - spotting a Manatee in the wild - only happens during the winter season. This is the only time of year when you can count on seeing manatees if you know where to go. If you're in the Orlando area, that place would be Blue Spring State Park. American Car Rental's Nariusky lists Blue Springs as one of her favorite places to see wildlife in Florida.
The springs, themselves, feed over 104 million gallons of water into the St. Johns river per day. An extensive underwater cave system exists which supplies a stream of warm, crystal clear water year round. It is this warm, pure water that attracts a growing number of West Indies manatees to the park every year.
Scuba divers, especially, like coming to Blue Spring State Park. Exploring the underwater cave system is always a big thrill and the year round 72° water temperature make it possible to dive during all seasons. In fact, Jacques Cousteau filmed his 1971 documentary, The Forgotten Mermaids, at Blue Spring State Park, which brought international focus to the plight of the endangered manatees.
Snorkelers, too, enjoy floating on top of the water and seeing much further down than they can typically see in other bodies of water. Even swimmers and people in canoes or kayaks enjoy the crystal clear waters and wildlife that abounds in the park.
Blue Spring State Park is home to at least 15 threatened or endangered plants and animals. In addition to manatees, it is home to black bears, the Florida scrub jay, gopher tortoises, alligators, a variety of hawks and wading birds as well as being one of only two known places where Okeechobee gourds live.
Because Blue Spring State Park is a designated manatee refuge, the spring and spring run are closed to all water activities including swimming, diving, boating and snorkeling from November 15 to March 15. This ensures that the manatees can exist in a safe, natural, undisturbed environment.
This doesn't mean that you can't enjoy them; though, there are viewing platforms that allow visitors to see plenty of the "sea cows." Don't be surprised if you see mom and calf manatee pairs doing barrel rolls as they swim underneath you!
|Thursby House at Blue Spring State Park|
Blue Spring State Park is open every day of the year from 8:00 am to sunset on a first come, first served basis. When the park is full (which happens early during busy seasons), no more visitors will be allowed access to the park until others leave the park. A waiting line of vehicles is a frequent occurrence.
Admission fees to Blue Spring State Park are as follows:
- Per vehicle: $6.00 (maximum of 8 people; $2.00 per extra passenger)
- Single Occupant Vehicle: $4.00
- Pedestrians & Bicyclists: $2.00