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.
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.
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.
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.
For more information: http://www.floridastateparks.org/manateesprings/