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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Spotting Manatees

~Friday, January 15, 2021~

Day 215

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t sing “Swannee River” to myself or to whomever will listen. After batting down the hatches at our campsite to prepare for rain, we headed to Manatee Springs State Park in Chiefland, FL. Only 25 minutes from our campsite, this park’s major warm spring draws the manatees in during the winter months. This first magnitude spring releases a staggering 100 million gallons daily. (it has to be 64 million gallons per day minimum, to be considered a first magnitude spring).

When we arrived, we noticed the signs to the campground and thought we’d check it out. I had remembered looking into this place a month or so ago. Of course, being a state campground, everything was booked at the time. State campgrounds are always the first to go. The 2 loops, Hickory and Magnolia are very similar, but would choose Magnolia over Hickory due to the lushness and privacy of the sites.

We brought Sadie with us, since we had read dogs were allowed. As we approached the boardwalk out to the springs, we knew there was no way they would allow dogs out there, and sure enough they were not. So back to the car for now. They have kayak rentals here, but since we have plans to do that somewhere else on another day, we opted to walk the boardwalk in hopes of seeing a manatee that way. In the shallow portions around the boardwalk, you could see just how clear the water is. As we walked under a canopy of Cypress trees, at times we would stop at the lookout points to spot them under the water or come up just a little bit to get some air.

Other than a turtle, that was about it for water creatures today. For the most part, it was too cloudy and windy of a day to really get a limpid view. On a clear day, the water is supposed to look a spectacular aquamarine color.

As we ventured further out on the boardwalk, we were led to where the Suwannee River and the Springs meet. As you venture further out on the boardwalk, it leads you right out to where the Suwannee River and the Springs meet.

After that bit of sightseeing, we went back to the car to get Sadie and take the 2-mile Scenic Trail, one of the many trails in the park. As we were about 10 minutes in, a sizable downpour ensued, leaving us pretty drenched, even with rain jackets on. Thank goodness the outdoor temps were not that cold. Getting caught in the rain reminded me a little bit of our hikes in Hawaii minus the humidity. There are about 18 interpretive signs on this loop trail and one very interesting point of interestOne of the cool stops was a Seminole Chickee Hut replica. Chickee is a word the Seminole Tribe uses for the word “house”. Well built, they’re constructed out of Palmetto thatch over a Cypress log frame, which started back in the early 1800’s. Speaking of Palmetto’s, the Saw Palmetto is a very obvious feature in Florida, with its fruit used for medicinal purposes. Near the end of our hike we ran into one of the camp hosts who may have just had a Red Bull and a double espresso! And he was very eager to share information about what to visit in the Sunshine State. Evidently, he spends his winters in Florida and his summers camp hosting in Maine, so he mentioned a few campgrounds that seem worthy of checking out. About an hour from Old Town, another cool place he mentioned was Cedar Key, a historic town with cool shops, restaurants and water features; a town that many label the “Florida Keys 50 years ago” .

A nice relaxing evening spent cooking a delicious dinner of spinach salad, black bean soup and cornbread while watching Twister!

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