It’s Time to See the Manatees at Blue Spring State Park!

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by Kim Hays
former OMB contributor

The manatees are coming! The manatees are coming!

Road-Trip-Blue-Springs
Blue Spring State Park

One super-special perk about living in Central Florida is the annual opportunity to witness the gathering of endangered and oh-so-cute sea cows in their natural habitat at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City in Volusia County.

As the water in the neighboring St. Johns River gets colder, West Indian manatees flock to the springs’ warmer waters. We spotted a couple sea cows during a visit last week, and word is that more are arriving daily. Manatee season runs from now until mid-March, and the springs and spring run are closed to humans during that time to give the manatees a safe haven. (So don’t get any crazy ideas in your head about swimming with the manatees!)

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Once inside the park, head down the boardwalk trails that overlook the springs. Keep quiet and watch for slow-moving gray blobs in the water. They’re usually along the shore munching on green stuff. When you spot one, just chill out and wait for the manatee to stick its whiskered nose out of the water for air. Keep in mind they can stay submerged for as long as 20 minutes. If you’re lucky with your timing, as we’ve been in years past, you could easily spot hundreds of manatees.

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Blue Springs State Park

Turn the day into an educational experience. Explain to your kids that West Indian manatees are endangered animals, and there are just over 4,000 of them in Florida. Wow them with these manatee facts: The average adult manatee can weigh up to 1,200 pounds. They eat 10 to 15 percent of their body weight every single day. They can travel as fast as 20 miles per hour but usually putter along around 5 miles per hour. They can live to be 60 years old. (More at SavetheManatee.org including awesome educational printables like coloring sheets.)

While you’re at the park, be sure to enjoy all that Blue Springs State Park has to offer: hiking trails, boat rides on the St. Johns River, the manatee-themed gift shop. And definitely stop into the Thursby House. Built in 1872 by pioneer Louis Thursby, the house  has been restored to reflect the way it looked during the golden age of Florida development (between 1875 and 1887). Thursby built one of the St. Johns’ first steamboat platforms, as well as planted one of the first orange groves along its banks.

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 If you go: Come early. The park fills up quickly when the manatees are out in force, and late-comers could be turned away. Bring cash. The park charges $6 per carload to enter. Make a day of it by packing a picnic lunch. After exploring the grounds and stalking manatees, you can relax while the kids play on the small playground. The park is open from 8 a.m. to sundown (around 5:30 these days). Address: 2100 W. French Ave., Orange City. Phone: 386-775-3663.

 

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