Today we spent time at Manatee Springs State Park, located in Chiefland. We are on a trip, where we are doing three springs in three days. Staying the night at the Days Inn, we paid $100 for two nights, and we are within minutes of both Manatee Springs and Fanning Springs State Park. We spent one day at Fanning Springs, today at Manatee Springs, and tomorrow we will be stopping at Hart Springs on Tuesday, before heading back home to the Daytona Beach area. Our visit to Florida's Nature Coast has been wonderful!
Manatee Springs State Park is yet another beautiful spring in Florida. Wow! They offer camping, trails, canoe rental, swimming, snorkeling, diving, camping, and more. They have pavilions, picnic tables, a concession stand, restrooms, and you can pay for a boat to take you up the Suwannee River, so you can canoe back down it to the springs.
Upon driving up to the ranger station to enter the park, I spotted a barred owl. I was so excited, because it's so rare to actually come across one to get a picture of. I got out of the car and took some pictures of it. The park rangers saw me taking pictures and even they came out to see what I was taking them of and then joined in to snap a few of their own.
They have 8.5 miles of trail for hiking at this park, including a sinkhole trail that is .6 miles long. When you walk up to the springs swimming area there is a boardwalk trail at each far end. If you take the one to the right of the spring you can take a short walk to the other side of the spring, where they have a dock and it is very shallow. This is a great place for those with small kids. You must take the boardwalk trail that is farther down on the left end of the springs! It is absolutely beautiful!
The boardwalk on the left side of the springs takes you on a short walk back to overlooking the Suwannee River. Along the way, you walk through an amazing cypress swamp (but you are on the boardwalk, so you stay dry). If you are like me and love trees you will love this walk. It's so beautiful! There is a video of it below. Once you get to the end of the boardwalk there is a dock where you can see the Suwannee River. Nice!
The springs offer several areas to enter. It's has a large swimming area with areas that are shallow and then those that are deep over the spring head. The view is so beautiful! The whole swimming area is lined with cypress trees and it's just a gorgeous spring. In the deep end by the spring head there are rocks you can stand on, otherwise it's pretty deep down there. Snorkeling at this spring is great, as there is a lot to see. We saw many fish, and could get great views down into the springs.
There were students there doing yearly research on turtles that they caught right there in the springs. They had many of them! They said they take down all their vital information once per year, so they can track their patterns of movement and then they release them back. I stopped by to talk with them about it and check out the turtles, of which they had many different types and sizes. We saw them release them back as they finished taking down the info and studying them.
We spent hours swimming in the springs and checking out the area. The only one negative was the out of control squirrels they had there hanging out by the pavilions and picnic tables. They obviously have been habituated (people have fed them, which is never a good thing) and they were a nuisance. I've never seen squirrels like this all the time I've spent in nature (which is a lot). There were around 5-6 of them and they were relentless and acting aggressive toward us, wanting to get to our food. We covered it all well, closed everything up, and went to swim. When we got back, we saw they had chewed through a zipped bag cooler bag and pulled food out. We still had other food, so we sat down to eat, but soon had to leave and go eat in the car. They were acting crazy trying to come at us for our food. It was like they were a gang of squirrels that were bandits trying to steal the food right out of our hands. Ridiculous I know, but I've never seen this happen before. We decided to go eat in the car to get away from them. Meanwhile, other people walked up to eat at that pavilion, and they became the next target. After we ate, I talked to them and they also could not believe how these squirrels were acting. It's never a good idea to feed the wildlife in the parks, and this is a prime example of why. A fed animal, is a dead animal, as the saying goes. It will take one person getting bitten by a squirrel before these crazy squirrels are killed to protect those going to the park. Yet it is humans who have fed them, leading to to their habituation and this behavior. So if you go to Manatee Springs, do not trust food sitting at a picnic table (even when you think you have a done a good job of closing it up), and please do not add to the problem by feeding the wildlife. Considering the park has a sign up about the squirrel feedings (below), they are aware of the problem of these crazy squirrels.
Two thumbs up for Manatee Springs! We loved it there. The spring is a beautiful place to swim and the park is beautiful! Crazy squirrels aside, this is one of the most beautiful springs I have seen in Florida yet. We were there on a Monday, and there were only a few other people in the park. It was almost like we had it to ourselves.
Update: 6/2021 we camped there. Read about camping at Manatee Springs State Park here.
You can get more information about Manatee Springs State Park here. Below are some pictures and videos of Manatee Springs State Park: