Manatee Madness

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This week we stayed at Blue Spring State Park which is located north of Orlando.  Blue Spring is the largest spring on the St. Johns River, discharging over 100 million gallons of crystal clear water per day.  It is especially popular this time of the year because the spring is full of manatees, over 300 on some days last week.

Manatees are a lot like Florida retirees—they can’t stand the cold.  In fact, manatees cannot survive extended periods in water that is colder than 68 degrees F.  As a result, when temperatures begin to drop in the ocean and rivers, many manatees head to springs which discharge water at temperatures in the low 70’s throughout the year.  Most manatees stay in Florida waters but occasionally they roam farther north.  A few years ago a manatee went to New Jersey and New York but did not return soon enough and died of cold exposure—a warning to us all of the dangers of the big city.

The good news is that there are lots of manatees to see this time of year—the bad news is that everyone wants to see them.  On weekend afternoons in the winter, the wait is often two hours to get into the park.  We are glad that so many people want to see manatees but it makes it a challenge to run errands when you are a camper—we only went out when we could return after the park closed for the day.

Besides watching the manatees, Blues Spring State Park provides access to a very nice paved biking trail and also to the St. Johns River for kayaking—it is definitely a park worth visiting.  Our friends from New York State, Dave and Donna, were also staying at the park last week so we had good time catching up.

Here are photos from our visit to the park.

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A few of the cars waiting to get into the park—when we arrived there were about 30 additional cars coming from the other direction.  Once the parking lots are full and unless you are a camper, no car goes in until a car comes out.

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Manatees are mammals so they have to come up to the surface breathe.  They can close their nostrils completely when they are underwater.

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The part of the manatee’s body where its tail is attached is called the “peduncle”.  With an average adult weight of around 1000 pounds, manatees are probably very self-conscious about the size of their peduncles.

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Mother and child go for a stroll.

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A baby manatee—they weigh 60 pounds when they are born.  Is there anything cuter?

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Manatees swim across the springhead where the water emerges from the earth.  The guy in the front is doing the sidestroke.  We also saw several manatees swimming upside down.

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Fish make room for the manatee although he is no threat to them.  They only eat plants–about 100 pounds per day for an adult.

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Patty and Dave kayaking on the St. Johns River—we kayaked with several manatees that were swimming in the river.

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Ed & Patty kayaking—it was good to have a friend along so we could get a rare photo of both of us.

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A manatee swims under Ed’s kayak.  Because they weigh 1000+ pounds, Ed is always a little nervous that one may accidentally come up under his kayak and flip it over.

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Ed follows a manatee up the river.

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This guy came up next to Ed’s boat looking directly at him.  If Ed had not been so startled, he could have gotten a really great photo.

PicMonkey Collage

Birds along the St. Johns River.  We are not birders but we believe the above birds are (starting from the bottom left and going clockwise):  sand hill crane, snowy egret, purple gallinule, and a pair of limpkins.

Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind – Henry David Thoreau

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