The Art and Grace of the Manatee

Updated: Jan 8

My husband knows how much I enjoy visiting wild life in its natural habitat. So, as a Christmas gift this year he arranged a trip to Blue Spring State Park in Orange City Florida. Why Blue Spring? Well, if you watched The World of Jacques Cousteau back in the 70's, maybe you caught the episode called "The Forgotten Mermaids." if you did, then you already know that Blue Spring is a winter refuge for manatees! Back in the early 70's when Cousteau discovered this manatee winter hangout there were about 14 manatees but with the conservation efforts that followed the numbers of manatees began to increase. Today it is possible to see 500 or more just hanging out in the crystal clear water. Park officials keep a running total of their manatee guests throughout the day and post it on boards around the park. Any idea why this area is their favorite winter vacation spot? It's the water temperature! Blue Spring maintains a constant 72 degrees year round. Manatees don't have much blubber to keep them warm. Their body mass is made up mostly of stomach and intestines. A drop in temperature of only 4 degrees, down to 68 and they can develop "cold stress" which can lead to digestion problems, decreased appetite and weight loss making the manatees vulnerable to diseases like pneumonia and intestinal infections and premature death.

Blue Spring is a first magnitude spring. That means it discharges at least 64.6 million gallons of water per day or 100 cubic feet per second. It is not blue though, it is green, perhaps because it reflects all the green above and below the water's surface.

Some fun facts about these gentle giants:

  1. Manatees, also called sea cows are mammals and their closest living relative is....the elephant!

  2. When a manatee comes to the surface to breath, it replaces 90% of the air in its lungs in just one breath. No wonder they can hold their breath up to 20 minutes!

  3. A Manatee can measure almost 14 feet long and weigh as much as 3000 pounds.

  4. Manatees have a mouthful of teeth but they don't bite, they do however, consume 5 to 10% of their body weight in seagrass and other plant life everyday.

  5. Christopher Columbus wrote having mistaken a manatee for a mermaid, "they are not so beautiful as they are said to be, for their faces had some masculine traits." (hehehe)

  6. A female manatee is pregnant for a whole year and the baby calf stays with her and nurses for up to two years.

  7. Most manatees live 30 to 40 years.

  8. The oldest known Manatee called Snooty, died in 2017 at age 69.

  9. Manatees can swim up to 20 miles per hour in short bursts, but they usually glide through the water at about three to five miles per hour.

  10. Manatees have no natural predators, in fact even alligators give them the right-of-way.

A shout out to the park. Of course the main attraction is the manatees but there is so much more to do at the park, making it a very family friendly place to visit. There is a playground and picnic tables and dogs on leash are welcome too. There are river cruises or you could go swimming, snorkling, scuba diving, or tubing in the clearest water you have ever seen. There are canoes and kayaks and paddle boards for rent. Hiking trails, campsites, and cabins for overnight guests.

A fishing dock, birding platforms and so much more.

I think you can tell that I really enjoyed my trip to Blue Spring State Park. We share the spring with the manatees, it is theirs exclusively during the winter and ours in the summer when they are gone. I plan to return in the summer and enjoy that crystal clear water. If you find yourself in the area and are looking for something to do, this just might hit the spot. It did for me.

Blue Spring State Park is

42 minutes from Orlando

43 minutes from Daytona Beach

45 minutes from Ormond Beach


Blue Spring State Park website

Northwest Florida Water Management District

Discover Crystal River Florida

Science Daily

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