manatee springs state park

Manatee Springs State Park – When Can You See Manatees?

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Manatee Springs State Park demonstrates that boardwalks aren’t just for the beach. The park’s 800-foot path winds through a magnificent cypress forest and overlooks Florida’s most beautiful first-magnitude springs.

From early Paleo Indians to modern park visitors, people have enjoyed the calm waters of Manatee Springs for over 10,000 years. Every day, the first-magnitude spring spews out 100 million gallons of water.

This makes it a popular spot for cooling off and strolling along the park boardwalk while gazing into the watery depths.

Manatees can be seen at Manatee Springs State Park in the cooler months, and birds, mammals, and fish can be seen all year.

Don’t forget to bring your bicycles because the park has 8.5 miles of nature trails and a safe connection to the 32-mile Nature Coast State Trail.

Yes, you can interact with the manatees, but there are some rules and guidelines. Manatees are protected by law because they are an endangered species.

If you go on a swimming tour, your guide will tell you all about interacting with these rare animals.

Swimmers and divers should make as little noise as possible, avoid splashing, and move slowly and deliberately. Manatees are curious and social creatures who regularly approach humans in the water.

While you may gently touch a manatee on the back or stomach with one hand, touching them with two hands at the same time is prohibited.

Read More: Rainbow Springs State Park

Are There Alligators in Manatee Springs State Park?

Alligators can be found in fresh or brackish water in Florida, though they are usually wary of humans and retreat or keep their distance.

Do not swim if you see an alligator at a spring, if one has been reported recently, or if there are “No Swimming” signs posted. More wildlife was encountered as some tourists paddled around the river’s spring.

They discovered a (giant) snake napping in a tree and an alligator hiding in a flooded area. They had never encountered an alligator in the wild before. When they first saw the gator, they were quite alarmed.

Read More: Alligator Point, FL – The 5 Best Things About This Ultimate Vacation Spot

Are Manatees at Blue Springs Now?

manatees at blue springs

While manatees are present, the spring and spring run are closed to all water activities. It is illegal to swim or dive with manatees; it strictly enforced this rule.

Conservation efforts can yield incredible results. Researchers tracked 14 manatees in the spring run in 1970, two years before Blue Spring State Park was established.

Wintering manatee numbers had surpassed 200 by 2005, following years of park improvements and manatee protection efforts, and by 2018, that number had skyrocketed to a record 485.

Fish abound in the spring run, attracting wading birds, ospreys, eagles, and kingfishers. Hiking along the spring run or the 4.5-mile Pine Island Trail is a great way to see the park’s wonders.

Visitors can also rent a canoe or kayak or go on a guided riverboat cruise (rentals are available at the park).

Read More: Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park

What Time of Year Are Manatees in Manatee Springs?

The best time to see manatees is when the local population swells to its largest size, from November to April. Manatees can be found in our waterways all year, but the population is smaller in the summer.

Because of the warmer weather, most manatees have ventured out to feed and are no longer in the springs.

Crystal River is the best place in Florida to see manatees! It’s famous for its numerous natural springs.

Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River is one of Florida’s most famous springs, with hundreds of manatees known to rest there at any given time!

Get Up and Go Kayaking in Crystal River can take you on a tour of the springs and surrounding areas in a completely clear kayak!

There are a variety of ways to encounter manatees without having to swim.

Manatees can be seen at Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park, which serves as a sanctuary for rehabilitating captive-born manatees and assisting them in returning to the wild.

  • The public is welcome to attend the park’s daily educational programs—another place where you can swim with or observe manatees in the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.
  • You can also arrange a boat, kayak, or paddle boarding trip with a local tour guide.
  • Divers who have completed their Open Water certification can dive the head spring with lights and the catfish hotel cavern without lights.

Dive the catfish hotel cavern with lights if you’re a certified cave diver, but don’t go beyond the daylight zone. Cavern divers should exercise caution when approaching the catfish hotel cavern’s siphon side, as the flow is massive.

Cave divers who are certified and qualified can explore several miles of caverns that feed into the spring.

Read More: Fanning Springs, Florida

Manatee Springs Campground

The Manatee Springs cave system includes over 20,000 explored and mapped caves and was once thought to be the world’s longest cave.

There are 80 campsites at Manatee Springs State Park Campground that can accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs (up to 40 feet).

There are electric and water hookups on every campsite and a campsite table, fire ring, and grill.

Some grounds have full hookups, while others are only for tents. There are also camping sites for groups, canoes, and kayaks.

The West Indian Manatees are the main draw here. The 800-foot boardwalk, which runs through a beautiful cypress forest and overlooks the Manatee Springs, is open to visitors.

A friendly campground host, drinking water, flush toilets, hot showers, and an RV dump station are available at Manatee Springs State Park Campground. You can buy firewood, ice, food, and supplies at the camp store. Canoes can also be rented from the concessionaire.

Read More: Glamping in Florida – What happens in Florida, stays in Florida

The park’s other features include a gift shop, horseshoes, hiking/biking trails, playground, particular event area, picnic area, boat ramp, theater, and interpretive programs.

Scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, biking, volleyball, horseshoes, picnicking, and wildlife viewing are among the many outdoor recreational activities available to visitors.


  • Barbecue Grills
  • Ramp for Boats
  • Rent a boat
  • A lot of Boat Trailers
  • Store at Camp
  • Center for Campfires
  • Host a Campground
  • Tables for Campsites
  • Service Station
  • Concessionaire
  • Drinking-Water
  • Dock
  • Dumpster
  • Electrical Connection
  • Equipment Rentals
  • Fire Pit Rings of Fire Available
  • Firewood
  • Shop for gifts
  • Group Camping
  • Group Pavilion
  • Grills
  • Ice
  • Iron
  • Interpreter at Ranger Park
  • Pets OK
  • Tables for Picnics Station
  • Ranger Recycling Facility
  • Rentals
  • Restaurant
  • Bathrooms (Flush Toilets)
  • RV Parking
  • RV Equipment
  • Showers
  • Machines for vending

In Conclusion…

If you’re looking for a place to see manatees up close, Manatee Springs State Park is a great option.

Scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, biking, volleyball, horseshoes, picnicking, and wildlife viewing are among the many outdoor recreational activities available to visitors.

And if you want to stay overnight, there are campsites available. So whether you’re looking for a day trip or a longer vacation, Manatee Springs State Park is worth a visit.

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