Florida Guide > State Parks
Blue Spring State Park - Part 1: The Boardwalk Area
Kevin and I experienced a wonderful day at this peaceful and beautiful State Park, during a trip to our Florida home, January 2006. Blue Spring is the largest spring on the St. Johns River and the best time to visit is from the end of November through to the middle of March, when its special inhabitants are most likely to be in residence. This area is the Winter refuge of the West Indian Manatee. The quiet, peaceful and constantly warm waters (72 degrees) of the St. Johns River attract these slow and majestic creatures to the area every year.
Driving North on I4 from our home took about 60 minutes and we arrived at Blue Spring late morning. Having paid our $5 entrance fee we enquired as to whether the Manatees were there that day and received the excellent news that 18 had been counted so far. Kevin drove slowly into the Park and we found a parking place near the boardwalk. The sun was shining, barely a cloud in the sky, no breeze, and the temperature was a balmy 75 degrees. Perfect January weather.
We were excited at what was likely to lay ahead for us. The only time that we had ever seen a Manatee was at Seaworld and Epcot, and both times that was through glass. Today we would actually have the pleasure of watching them in their natural habitat, and what a great pleasure it was too!!
Stepping onto the wooden boardwalk, which runs for some distance along the river's edge, we joined a small group of people, some of whom were pointing down into the waters. There, in crystal clear water only about 3 feet deep, was a large gray Manatee, suckling her calf. Apparently mum and baby had only just surfaced for air and then gone back below the surface again. We knew that if we waited patiently for around 6 minutes, they would breathe again, which is exactly what they did, almost in unison, with the baby breaking through the surface just ahead of the cow. Kevin had the camera ready and took a brilliant close up of both creatures as their mouths broke through the water. They rose, took in air, dropped down below the surface and resumed their task. We stayed there, leaning against the wooden railing watching while the calf suckled.
Twice more we saw them come up for air before we eventually tore ourselves away and hand in hand slowly meandered along the wooden boardwalk, which had been carefully built between the river's edge and the forest. We were privileged to see a group of 4 adult manatees, gracefully swimming downstream, in formation. The leader of this small party was huge and you could clearly see the scars on his back where he had encountered a propeller shaft. Another group of 3 manatees were just basking in a shallow, sunny part of the spring, while Cleaner fish were nipping at their skins, busy doing their jobs. Fish of all sizes and colors put on various aquatic displays for us. Some of the black sword-nosed fish were huge as they patrolled the waters in small shoals. One large, round fish was intent on digging holes in the water-covered sand near the bank, probably searching for its next meal.
Every creature was so easy to see in the still and clear waters. We could have watched the antics of the aquatic wildlife until dusk, it was so relaxing and peaceful, but, we had a St John’s River Trip to experience and the boat left the dock at 1pm. Stepping up our walking pace, we just made the boat in time....
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Page added on: 8 February 2006
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