Manatees at
Blue Spring State Park

See them in the wild near Orlando

 

 

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  Blue Spring State Park
Central Florida Manatee Hotspot

Located 2 miles from Orange City near Deland, FL, Blue Spring State Park is one of Florida's most important manatee wintering refuges.

A half-mile boardwalk skirts the length of Blue Spring run, making this the only place in the world where dozens of manatees can so easily be seen from land.

The boardwalk, which is easily wheelchair accessible, has several platforms extended over the 72-degree water. These provide excellent views of the manatees, which winter here from around mid-November to mid-March.

Blue Spring flows directly into the St. Johns River. Once water temperatures in the St. Johns warm up each spring, the manatee herd disperses until the following season.

Since there is no vegetation growing in the spring run, manatees sometimes make short forays into the river for food during the winter.

The best time for manatee viewing is early on a cold morning, shortly after the park opens. Later in the day, some of the animals may move into the St. Johns to feed.

Take a pair of binoculars to best see the animals as they rest on the bottom, then rise to the surface to loudly inhale a breath of fresh air.

  

The boardwalk also passes through a heavily wooded hammock and ends at the Blue Spring boil. Fish life in the immediate vicinity of the boil is scarce, due to the water's low oxygen content.

However, fish watching can be good just a few hundred feet before reaching the spring boil. Look in particular for catfish, largemouth bass, garfish and big tilapia.

  

Understandably, Blue Spring is a very popular park. On cold winter weekends, be at the park soon after it opens at 8 a.m. or you may have to line up in your car outside the park until there is an empty parking space inside.

Visit on a weekday if possible, realizing that even weekdays can be crowded with busloads of school children (who typically do not arrive before 10 a.m.)

  

Park rangers offer special audio-visual programs when the manatees are in residence. Interpretive programs on manatees are offered daily during the manatee season (November 15th-March 1st). Look for posted times near the concession area.

The state park also hosts the weekend-long Blue Spring Manatee Festival at the end of January.

Contacts: Call 386/775-3663 or Blue Spring State Park. Open 8 a.m. until sunset year-round. Campsites and vacation cabins are available.

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