No manatees, but lovely springs

We arrived at Manatee Springs State Park just after noon one warm spring day in April.

We didn’t know much about the park or about manatees, just that the park was six miles off the highway we were on, headed southeast around the Big Bend coastline of Florida, and it seemed a good place to stop for a picnic lunch.

The joys of serendipity – and wildflowers.

We didn’t see any manatees. It turns out they’re only in the park when it’s cold. They like the constant 72-degree temperature of the spring water during the winter months. Once it warms up – it was nearly 80 degrees on this day – they return to the rivers and bays in this portion of southwestern Florida they call home.

But we did see a lovely spring of crystal clear, turquoise-blue water, sparkling in the flashes of sunlight through the cypress trees and Spanish moss. This is a “first-magnitude spring,” which means it produces 100 million gallons of freshwater a day from underground.

That’s a lot of water. The spring forms several very large pools, one of them reportedly 90 feet deep. The day we were there a handful of young campers and their parents were swimming and floating on rafts in the liquid aquamarine.

We’d driven 128 miles that morning and stopped to picnic in the shade, enjoying three kinds of cheese, an apple, a spinach salad with fresh tomato and a Fat Tire beer.

Then we walked to the spring maybe a hundred yards from the parking lot and the quarter-mile boardwalk from the spring to the river. The area is what I imagine Caddo Lake in far northeast Texas looking like – the only natural lake in Texas and one G and I have long aspired to visit.

This spring is heavily shaded by large, gangly trees and curtains of Spanish moss, giving the area a haunted, other-worldly feel. There are hundreds “Cypress knees” protruding upward from the still waters, breathing for the host trees. They remind me of stalagmites growing from the bottom of a wet bat cave.

The water drifts lazily – there is no visible current – to the Suwannee River, a wild backwater that begins in South Georgia and empties into the Gulf of Mexico about 150 miles north of St. Petersburg. So clear was the river water that we could spy on several schools of fish, probably catfish or sand seatrout, from the boardwalk 20 or 30 yards away.

The colors are right out of a rich Monet painting. A sign said water from the spring was generally eight years old before it reached the river. The catfish shared this portion of the river with a handful of teenage girl campers in canoes.

Another sign warned against swimming with alligators (really!) but we didn’t see any.

After about an hour, we walked back to our Casita. We double checked the trailer hitch, secured our bike rack and grabbed a club soda from the fridge for the road. We had another 129 miles to go before we’d bunk down in the urban St. Petersburg area.

Our impromptu lunch at Manatee Springs State Park was a wonderful interlude, the last time we’d spend in rural Florida for several days.

12 thoughts on “No manatees, but lovely springs

  1. Sally & Rodger Cramer May 12, 2018 — 3:38 pm

    Caddo Lake in East Texas has the cypress trees, but the water is not nearly as clear as it does not have springs to fill it. We are really enjoying reading about your travels as we also have a Casita and are learning to really enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to know. Thanks for sharing. So glad you’re enjoying the blog and your Casita!Welcome aboard.

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  2. I love reading your adventures. So much of what you see, experience and share together reminds me of Marty & me but my description would be “Had a great time, beautiful & blessed”. You have a wonderful way of bringing it to life for us. Thank you! I will be following you….,,

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    1. Oh thank you, Ann! I love that you love these blog posts. And, yes, I had the feeling you and Marty enjoy many of the same things that Georges and I do. Here’s wishing you the very best as you (pack and) hike Cinque Terre!

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  3. Dave Villarosa April 6, 2018 — 8:57 pm

    This is so awesome! I’ve only read this one, the map, and “Who We Are” so far, but will go back and catch up on all prior. What is so awesome is that you are really traveling on the edge of the USA, visited so many different places and cultures already, and you’re free as a bird, seemingly with no strict agenda. I love your writing and presentation too – I feel as if I’m there with you. Yes, I’ve known you were going on this trip for a while, but that was just discussion and seeing this now makes it a reality and I’m so excited for you two! I miss you guys already and it’s only been a month. Have fun, enjoy each other, enjoy the places you visit and be safe! Dave Villarosa 🙂
    P.S. – I tried to proof read this, so please don’t cringe on my grammar too much, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great to hear from you, Dave. Glad you’re enjoying the blog!

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  4. Oh, it looks so lovely there! Glad to “be with you” in sunny Florida! Hope it stops snowing before you guys get up this way lol! 2-4 inches predicted for Saturday…😩 Can’t wait to read about your adventures in and around St. Petersburg- We are learning so much from your journey! Enjoy ❤️❤️

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    1. Two to four inches of snow? OMG! I’m glad we won’t be there til June. It’s 75 today in St. Pete. Great cycling weather.) Blog post to come.) Hope all is well with you. Best to John, Sarah and Kurtis!

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  5. Susan Wansbrough April 4, 2018 — 9:42 am

    There are manatees at Crystal River. We have a friend who is a manatee guide there and can take you to swim with them. Her name is Stacy Dunn. http://www.manateesinparadise.com/index.html
    Also, just south of that area is Weeki Wachee, a great old school roadside attraction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. That would be cool! We drove by Weeki Wachee and marveled at its jam-packed full parking lot. In St. Pete now….

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  6. my blood pressure lowered just reading this. Lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

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