Florida Guide > State Parks
See the Manatees at Blue Spring State Park
Located just off the I4 at Orange City some 20 miles north of Orlando, Blue Spring State Park is best known for its manatee migration in the winter months between November and March. During this period these endangered creatures find the waters of the St Johns River a little too cold for comfort and the lagoon area and spring run of the Park provide not only additional warmth but also a safe haven.
The Blue Spring itself, which pumps out over a million gallons of water a day at a constant 72 degrees, is accessed by self-guided boardwalks and is a pleasant fifteen-minute stroll from the car park. Information boards along the way provide the visitor with lots of interesting facts and figures, which help in understanding the history and ecology of their immediate surroundings.
There is an observation platform at the end of the boardwalk, which is an ideal place to see the manatees as they emerge from the darkness of the 140-foot deep chasm. At the time of our visit the rangers told us seventy-nine had been counted that very morning, but it still took over forty minutes of waiting patiently before we were rewarded with our first sighting of the day.
Although the manatees are undoubtedly the main attraction, Blue Spring State Park provides a diverse range of activities that makes for a great day out.
Two-hour narrated nature and ecological cruises on the St Johns River leave twice daily from the boardwalk pier, and kayak tours explore the more inaccessible areas of this unique and fragile ecosystem. Also within the park confines a boat ramp which is available for canoeists and private boaters to get ‘up close and personal’ with the manatees in the lagoon area.
Swimming is allowed in designated areas and scuba diving, although regulated, is also permitted in the spring run, however, we were a little put off by the ‘Beware of Alligators’ sign! !
Around the lagoon area anglers will find an abundance of speckled perch and large mouth bass, and hikers have the opportunity to explore a four-mile trail winding through shaded hammocks and open flatwoods.
There are also large open spaces to play and picnic, and a concession stand offers snacks and beverages.
Blue Spring State Park comes highly recommended, and is extremely popular with both locals and visitors. It is always advisable to arrive early to avoid the disappointment of being turned away.
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