Watching a 1500 -2500 lb submerged blob might not seem like all that much fun but for people of the right sensitivity it can be lovely. Manatees are mammals, they are warm blooded mammals — and in cold water they develop hypothermia just like humans. Their pursuit of warm water is the reason they find themselves here at Blue Spring (and it really is a single spring of artesian water) even though they live much of their life in the ocean and have been seen (though not in significant numbers) as far north as North Carolina and beyond. How they find their way to these pools — and many of them return year by year — is a great mystery to me. We humans have a hard enough time finding our way from city to city on highways with markings — they do it from underwater with no maps! They have been monitored at this park for over 30 years where individuals and families have returned and there are in some cases three generations of manatee histories on record.
It’s not just manatees that you can see in the spring. There are alligators there, as well as nearly a dozen species of fish — from Gar, to Tilapia I’m told — though I could not tell which was which except for the long nosed Gar.
I like this park a lot. It’s clearly designed for people to come, see the manatees and leave. There aren’t a lot of trails, there aren’t a lot of campsites. There IS a large shelter with tables for picnickers but there aren’t oodles of charcoal pits or fire rings. It’s designed to move people.
But it does that with an easy grace that struck me as being particularly welcoming. Can’t say exactly why I say that, just that it felt comfortable being there. The boardwalks that take you from viewing point to viewing point are in good shape, you feel comfortable on them and yet they don’t seem to take over the feeling of forest — as if you were in an amusement park or something.
With the park situated at the junction of Blue Spring to the St. John’s River there are wonderful opportunities for exploring by boat. You can rent boats there, or bring your own. The bayous and tributaries provide opportunity for paddling for an hour, a couple/few hours, or longer — depending on your arms! (or motor). Just don’t get lost — the pull out service is not cheap if you rent a kayak and miss the return time and have to be searched out and dragged back to the park!
We don’t often do the formal tours, but I wanted to do this 2 hour tour and it was a doosey. We were gone more like 2 1/2 hours and the naturalist was well worth the price of the tour. Not only did she see a wonderful assortment of critters — but if people did not see what she was excited about she’d back the boat up or go back and forth until you DID see what she was talking about. It was almost as though she was determined you’d enjoy yourself even if you didn’t want to — though there was no one like that on board.
We saw birds on the ground
and birds in the air.
Many more of both than I took photos of, and some that we only heard — over the reasonably quiet sound of the motor.
We’d return in a heartbeat — who knows, maybe yet this year.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll chat with you again tomorrow.