Monday, April 02, 2007

Manatee Springs State Park

Manatee Springs State Park is in Levy County along the east bank of the Suwannee River near the town of Chiefland. Over 100 million gallons of water flow from this first magnitude spring every day into the Suwannee. The water rises to the surface through a large underground aquatic cave system that is believed to be one of the longest in North America.

Manatee Springs

The warm waters of the spring attract West Indian manatees in the winter. They swim up the Suwannee River from the Gulf of Mexico to spend the colder months near this source of warmth and refuge. These magnficent mammals are a favorite attraction for park visitors.

Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) with a turtle on its back

The park is divided into two distinct sections with the area around the springs and the quarter-mile run it forms to the Suwannee dominated by water-loving trees like cypress, tupelo, gum, ash and maple. The uplands of the park are drier and contain a sandhill plant community that contains turkey oak, longleaf pine, wiregrass and palmetto.

View from the elevated boardwalk

18th century naturalist William Bartram was the first person to describe Manatee Springs in detail and also to note the presence of manatees. The area was once famous for its old growth cypress trees, with some specimens being over 3,000 years old. Cedar was also extensively logged here by the pencil industry in the late 19th century and was processed and shipped from nearby Cedar Key in the Gulf of Mexico.

Black vulture (Coragyps atratus)

The Suwannee River

Activities include swimming, scuba diving, fishing, boating and hiking. There is a campground and food concession near the spring. The best time to view manatees is November through April.

The North Trail

For more information:

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Spring Flowers

Ponce de Leon discovering the Fountain of Youth

The naming of Florida is credited to Ponce de Leon who christened this land in 1513 with a Spanish term Pascua Florida, meaning “feast of flowers” which was also another word for Easter. With this in mind I thought it fitting to showcase a photo gallery of flowers that we observed today on this most splendid Palm Sunday.

The photographs were taken in two state parks about ten miles apart (Camp Helen and Eden Gardens) where the signs of spring were everywhere in evidence. Have a Happy Easter week everyone!

Water lily (Nymphaea odorata)

Azaleas (Rhododendron periclymenoides)

Golden Aster (Chrysopsis floridana)

Camellia (Camellia japonica)

Orange Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis)