Manatees at Blue Spring State Park Florida

Manatee Cow and Her Calf

A manatee mother and baby glide along in the warm blue spring water.
A manatee mother and baby glide along in the warm blue spring water. | Source

Manatees in Florida Come to Blue Spring State Park

The beautiful Blue Spring is the largest warm spring on Florida’s St. John’s River with year around temperatures of 72°. While the warm crystal clear water of Blue Spring State Park is a popular attraction year for swimming, diving and boating, it is also an ideal winter spot for a large number of West Indian manatees bask in the warm Blue Spring. It's one of the best places in Florida to view manatees in their natural habitat.

Designated an Official State Natural Feature.

About 100 million gallons of 72° water flows from the spring to the St. John's River each day via the spring run. In the winter, especially when the temperature is unusually cold, a large population of West Indian Manatees leave the St. John’s river and move into the warm water of the springs. The area has wooden walkways above the spring where visitors can view the manatees without disturbing them. The crystal clear water of the spring is ideal for viewing as well as photographing the big gentle creatures. Because manatees are a threatened species, the park does not allow swimming or water sports in the spring area when the manatees are in residence from mid November until March.

Beautiful Crystal Clear Water at Blue Spring State Park

Spring Run at Blue Springs State Park. Florida
Spring Run at Blue Springs State Park. Florida | Source

Manatees Are Related to the Elephant

The boardwalks and viewing platforms above the spring allow visitors to get a close look at the manatees swimming below. Most of the time the big sea cows seem to be oblivious to the people gathered around to observe them.

The West Indian Manatee that lives in Florida is a very large aquatic mammal. Average adult size is 9-11 feet long and 800-1200 pounds. They have a large flat tail that they use as a paddle and two flippers in front with 3 or 4 nails on each that helps them hold food while they are eating. They have no back legs or feet. The manatee has a face that only a mother could love, with deep wrinkles and bristly whiskers. Biologists believe that their closest relative is the elephant.

A Manatee Swims at Blue Springs

A manatee at Blue Springs State Park
A manatee at Blue Springs State Park | Source
Blue Spring is a lovely tropical setting for this manatee.
Blue Spring is a lovely tropical setting for this manatee. | Source

Manatees Can Live in Saline Water, Fresh Water or Brackish Water

Manatees generally live along the coast, but do not need salt water to live. They can survive in fresh water, saline water or brackish water. Although they are large, they have a low metabolic rate and lack a thick layer of insulating body fat that would allow the to live in cold water, so they are usually found in Florida in the winter even though they may wander farther afield during the summer —as far as Texas and even as far north as New York City.

A Manatee in the Crystal Clear Water of Blue Springs

A manatee usually comes up for air every 3 or 4 minutes, though they can stay under water longer.
A manatee usually comes up for air every 3 or 4 minutes, though they can stay under water longer. | Source

Protect the Environment to Protect Our Manatees

An article from WFTV.com (Mar. 20, 2013) reported that 55 manatees have been found dead in the Brevard County, Florida Indian River Lagoon. Although the exact cause of death has not been pinpointed, autopsies revealed that their stomachs were full of macroalgae, but contained none of the sea grass that is their main diet. It is thought that this was the cause of death. Fertilizer runoff in the area has killed sea grass and is destroying the manatee's habitat.

Read the full article here: http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/manatees-dying-indian-river-lagoon/nWyZK/.


Manatees Are in Danger From Loss of Habitat as Well as Watercraft

The West Indian Manatee has no natural predators. Their largest threats are man-made, one of the major causes of death results from collisions with motorized water craft as they usually swim just under the surface of the water, but are too slow to move quickly out of the way. Manatees are often seen with scars from collisions with motorboat propellers.

Another threat to the manatee is the loss of their habitat. They eat 10-15% of their body weight daily – mostly aquatic plants, but they will also eat small fish and small invertebrates. As coastal and waterfront property becomes more developed, their habitat is threatened. Florida is now taking measures to preserve the manatee habitat and to education the public about manatees.

Birds and Other Wildlife Love the Warm Blue Springs, Too

A Great Blue Heron watches over the water at Blue Spring looking for smaller fish for it's dinner.
A Great Blue Heron watches over the water at Blue Spring looking for smaller fish for it's dinner. | Source

Manatees Keep Their Calves Close for One to Two Years

Adult manatees are sometimes called sea cows, and their young are referred to as calves. Calves are born about every three years, and nurse from the mother for one to two years. When we observed the manatees at Blue Springs, we saw several mothers with their calves swimming very close. Currently there is an estimated population of 4,480 West Indian Manatees in the U.S.

Best time to see manatees is November and December, although we saw a large number of them at Blue Springs one January when there was a cold snap and they came to the springs to warm up. Because they do not tolerate cold very well, they can die from shock in cold water. They can also die because their digestive tracts shut down in water colder than 68°.

A Female Manatee Swims in the Warm Blue Spring with Her Calf

The calves swim very close to their mothers, almost touching.
The calves swim very close to their mothers, almost touching. | Source

A View of Anhingas Near the St. John's River by the Blue Springs

Anhingas take a break here.
Anhingas take a break here. | Source
Anhingas take a break here.
Anhingas take a break here. | Source

Blue Springs State Park - A Beautiful Place to Enjoy Nature

Blue Springs State Park consists of 2,600 acres on the St. John’s River. In addition to the unique area for viewing the Manatees, the park has nature trails, picnic areas and camping. In season, visitors can enjoy swimming, diving, snorkeling and boating. Certified scuba divers can explore the spring if they dive with a partner. There is also a two hour narrated riverboat tour with knowledgeable staff lecturing on the history and unique ecology of the area.

The Water and Shadows Look Like a Monet Painting

Source

The Blue Spring's Waters are Like an Impressionist painting

In addition to the thrill of seeing the large numbers of manatees gathering in the spring, I was fascinated by the colors and beauty of the clear water. As the water ripples and the sun moved across the sky, the water colors changed from blue to green, reflecting back the colors of the sky and the surrounding vegetation.

I hope you have enjoyed my photo gallery of the manatees at Blue Spring State Park in Florida and the photographs that depict the West India Manatees in their natural habitat. I deliberately did not include aquarium photographs which would have shown more detail because I love the abstract feel of the photographs as they captured the changing light and colors of the water.

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Copyright ©2011 Stephanie Henkel

Blue Spring State Park, Orange City, Florida

A markerBlue Spring State Park, Florida -
Blue Spring State Park, 2100 West French Avenue, Orange City, FL 32763, USA
[get directions]

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Please Comment and Vote 61 comments

Ardie profile image

Ardie 5 years ago from Neverland

Absolutely astounding work! These photographs are...amazing. I can't think of any other words to use that do justice to this hub :) I am so jealous that you have seen this with your own eyes. I HAVE to take the kids one winter to see the manatee. I just found my next vacation destination. Voted UP


plinka profile image

plinka 5 years ago from Budapest, Hungary

What an interesting animal! I know them as sea cows. It's interesting that their closest relative is the elephant. Manatees may have preferred to stay in water for some reason (or went back to water?). :-) Voted up!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Excellent wotk.

I saw much of this long ago, in the early and yet unspoiled 50's.


teacherjoe52 profile image

teacherjoe52 5 years ago

That's beautiful.I would love to swim with them and cuddle with them. They look so peaceful and beautiful


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

When I teach group swim fitness I always try to bring in the manatee as a "name" of an exercise movement. Oh, what miraculous animals we have in the water! Thank you so much


Giselle Maine 5 years ago

I have been enjoying your photo gallery hubs even if I don't comment on each one - yet this one just took my breath away.

Your photo composition is amazing, and the photos themselves must have been challenging (trying to take pictures of moving objects is not easy!) Voted UP, beautiful and awesome!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Ardie -We were thrilled to be in the area one year when we heard a news bite about the manatees coming into Blue Springs because of the cold weather. It was quite an amazing sight! Thank you for your very nice comments! I hope that you get a chance to take your children soon.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Plinka – Manatees are sometimes called sea cows, and their babies are called calves. They certainly are as almost as big as the cows we see on land. Perhaps they evolved from land animals…I’m not sure what the theory is. Thanks so much for your thought provoking comments and for your vote.

Will Starr – It must have been interesting to see Blue Springs in the 1950’s before the area became a tourist attraction. I saw a photo taken in the 60's and it looked like an old fashioned swimming hole. I'd love to see your pictures if you have any. Thanks for stopping by to visit and comment!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Teacherjoe – I’m not sure how cuddly these 1,300 pound mammals are, though their babies seem to want to cuddle up. But they are definitely gentle, slow and peace loving. From what I've read, it seems that conservationists don't approve of people swimming with them as it could disturb their feeding. But it was a joy to be able to observe them quite closely from the viewing platforms. Thanks for stopping in to comment!

GmaGoldie – How fitting to name your swim fitness movements about manatees! They do glide gracefully through the water despite their size, and I can imagine their movements as a slow water ballet. Thank you for stopping by and for your interesting comments.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Giselle Maine – These photographs were taken a few years ago, and I think I was having trouble with my camera at the time. I wish I had more photographs of the manatees and the beautiful setting at Blue Springs State Park but I'm happy to have a dozen or so good shots. I’m glad that you’ve been enjoying my photo gallery hubs, and I truly appreciate your support and gracious comments. Thank you so much for stopping by.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

How lovely! The colors are so deep and glowing. I remember seeing manatees when I lived outside of Tampa. They are so gentle and serene. Your Hub is beautiful and the information great.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Hello Hypephenbird - I loved the colors reflected in the water almost as much as I loved the manatees. Living where you could see them and the other diverse wildlife in Florida sounds like a wonderful way to enjoy nature. Thank you for visiting my hub and for your kind comments!


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 5 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

Beautiful and awesome photos. I wish I could visit one day but I don't do planes! Maybe if I take a train ride I'll be able to go there one day....

And yes, that one photo DOES look like a Monet painting!


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 5 years ago from Illinois

Congrats on your 100th Hub - it's a great one. Manatees are important because they are a link to the past. Voted up and useful.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

This 100th hub is like a beautiful gift. Loved the monet coloring of some of the photos. I didn't know Manatees were so large.

Voted up across the board except for funny.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Dorsi - Thank you, Dorsi, I'm glad you enjoyed the photographs of Blue Spring and the manatees. It would be a long ride, but you never know when you'll get the urge to hop a train for a cross-country trip! Thanks for stopping in to read my hub and for your comments!

Marriedwithdebt - Thank you for the good wishes! I was happy that my milestone hub turned out to be the one about manatees and Blue Spring park as they seemed fitting subjects for a celebratory hub. Thanks for stopping in to comment!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Hello Gail, Thanks for stopping in to visit my milestone hub! I was surprised, too, when I read how much a manatee could weigh. It was a beautiful setting, and I enjoyed seeing the mothers swimming with their calves so close to them. Thank you for your comments and your votes today.


gryphin423 profile image

gryphin423 5 years ago from Florida

Beautiful hub, I love to see the manatees. And congratulations on your 100th hub!I'm looking forward to the next 100!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Hi Gryphin - I'm glad you enjoyed the manatees! Thank you for the good wishes and for stopping in to read my milestone hub!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a very interesting hub! I love learning about animals, and I think that manatees are fascinating. Thank your for the information. I would love to visit the Blue Spring State Park and see the manatees myself!


Carmen H profile image

Carmen H 5 years ago

Another wonderful hub with stunning pictures from you, Stephanie. Your hubs are always a delight, always reminding to enjoy the beauty life has to offer. Congratulations on your 100th hub and counting!


puter_dr profile image

puter_dr 5 years ago from Midwest USA

This is one of the things I miss since I moved from Florida. We lived about 10 miles from Blue Springs, so we went often. Thanks for the great hub as well as a reminder of those memories


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Carmen H - Hello again, Carmen! I'm so happy that you enjoyed this hub about Manatees and Blue Springs. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting - I always love hearing from you!

AliciaC - I'm glad that you found some useful information on Manatees here and that you enjoyed my hub. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

Puter dr - It must have been lovely to be able to visit Blue Springs often to see the manatees and to enjoy the warm springs when they were open to water recreation. Thanks for sharing your memories and for commenting!


puter_dr profile image

puter_dr 5 years ago from Midwest USA

When we first moved there, they allowed swimming with the manatees, but I think in 1996 or 97 it was outlawed after someone injured or killed a young manatee.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Puter - I've read that swimming with the manatees is also discouraged because it disturbs their eating habits. But I would think it wouldn't be a good idea to get too close to a female with a calf, either.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

Beautiful photos to compliment your 100th Hub! Congratulations! Long live the manatee!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Hi Sunshine, Yes, long live the manatee! I fell in love with them the first time we saw them in Florida, and felt sad at their plight. It was so wonderful to see them in the beautiful setting of Blue Spring park. Thanks for stopping in and for your good wishes and comments!


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Great topic for a hub! Thanks for sharing so many beautiful pictures.

Congrats on reaching 100 hubs!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Randomcreative - I was pleased that this one happened to be my milestone 100th hub as I have a special fondness for the manatees and Blue Spring park. Thank you for stopping in to read and comment on my hub. I appreciate your support!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

WOW!! To have seen manatees in person... I envy you, Stephanie Henkel! These photos are gorgeous, and I've learned a couple new things about manatees now, too!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Hi Simone, I have seen manatees in some of the big aquariums, too, but seeing them in their natural habitat is really amazing. Thanks for stopping in to comment - I always love to hear from you!


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Congratulations on winning the daily draw. I have never seen a manatee in person. These are beautiful.


rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 5 years ago from Tampa Bay

Stunning!


sofs profile image

sofs 5 years ago

Awesome hub...I loved your pictures so much...I really wish I could see all of this for myself...hopefully some day :) Thanks for sharing!!


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA

Great hub, Stephanie! I love the manatees and the colors in your photos. The colors of the water are beautiful. It looks like such a neat area. I would love to see them sometime like that.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

sofs - Blue Spring park is definitely worth a visit if you are in Florida in the winter. Thanks you for your comments!

oceansnsunsets - Blue Spring is a neat area, and the colors of the water really were incredible. Thanks for stopping in to visit my hub and to comment!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

FloraBreenRobison - I just found out about winning the daily drawing myself -I was very pleased! Thanks for stopping by to read and comment on my hub!

rebekahELLE - Thanks for stopping in to view my photo gallery of manatees and for commenting!


stephaniedas profile image

stephaniedas 5 years ago from Miami, US

This is so gorgeous! Everything, the water, the scenery, the birds, and yes, even the manatee's face that you claim only a mother could love. I have never seen manatees in the wild, but there are such interesting creatures...they have a similar allure of the dolphin, I suppose. It breaks my heart that they are endangered. I'm glad you're getting words out about them.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Stephaniedas - Manatees are so interesting, and seeing them up close in their natural habitat was wonderful. They seem so gentle, and the mothers with the babies were adorable. Florida is working hard to protect them and to restore some of their habitat - I believe they have been moved from the "endangered" list to "threatened", but they do deserve special protection. Thank you for stopping by to comment!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia

I've been very close to manatees in FL, but I've never been to Blue Spring. Beautiful pics - voted up!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Habee- It's so nice that you have the opportunity to see the manatees in Florida. Perhaps some day you'll visit Blue spring - I think you'll like it. Glad you enjoyed my pictures. Thanks for visiting!


Ardie profile image

Ardie 5 years ago from Neverland

I just saw you won the daily drawing!!!! Congrats Stephanie :D


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Ardie - Thanks! Yes, I was excited to win the daily drawing! The contest was a lot of fun!


Ardie profile image

Ardie 5 years ago from Neverland

I loved seeing all the entries. I never knew so many hubbers were also talented photographers!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Love it! Beautiful photos - interesting information and I would love to share it with my kids for their education as well. Super impressive hub - again!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

I'm so glad you enjoyed the photographs! I think your children would love to visit Blue Spring State Park in Florida as you can get outstanding views of the manatees and their adorable young calves! Thanks for visiting!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

My pleasure for sure!


oldandwise 4 years ago

Well done! Beautiful pictures. I'll have to take the time and visit there! voted up.


marketingskeptic profile image

marketingskeptic 4 years ago from San Diego, CA

Wow, you're an amazing photographer! =]

I'll definitely add visiting Blue Springs State Park to my bucket list of places to visit. Thanks for sharing!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Outstanding! This is a fascinating hub, Steph. Rated up and across...photos really capture the area so well. Wondering if you are considering a photo book of your work? You surely would have enough to exhibit of your work.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA Author

Oldandwise & marketingskeptic - I'm glad you enjoyed the photographs of manatees and Blue Spring State Park. We did enjoy our time in that beautiful place and seeing the manatees up close was incredible! Thanks for stopping in to read and comment!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA Author

Hi Denise, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub, Denise! You sound as if you've been to the area - isn't it wonderful? I do love photography, but haven't thought about exhibiting my work. For now I'm enjoying the opportunity to incorporate my photographs into Hubs and my blog. Maybe someday... But thanks for the complement! :)


Nettlemere profile image

Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

Great photos and beautiful and interesting hub.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA Author

Nettlemere - I'm so glad you enjoyed this hub about the manatees at Blue Spring State Park. They are fascinating creatures, and we were fortunate to see so many of them during our visit there. Thanks for stopping in to comment!


AudraLeigh 3 years ago

"Spring Run at Blue Springs State Park. Florida"

"The calves swim very close to their mothers, almost touching"

"Anhingas take a break here"

Those three pics were my favorite! All of the pics were wonderful! You have a talent as a photographer! Yes, that crystal clear water was awesome! I can tell you had a wonderful time visiting the park n Florida! Thanks for showing me the area there...amazing!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

We have these around here as well, but I have yet to see one up close. Thanks for the educational information on these creatures. Your photos are awesome to look at. This park would be a great place to visit.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 3 years ago from USA Author

teaches12345 - Although we are only occasional visitors to Florida, we try to visit Blue Spring whenever we are nearby because it's such a great place to get good views of the manatees. The walkways above the water allow visitors to watch these amazing creatures without disturbing them, and the clear water makes it fairly easy to get good photographs. I do hope you get a chance to visit sometime. Thanks so much for your comments!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

You really should be working for NatGeo! Your research and information are impeccable and we all know your photographs are just amazing. How sad that man is even threatening the manatees!

Voted up, useful, and interesting.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Gorgeous pictures and wonderfully informative article. Makes me miss Florida so much. We used to watch the Manatees swimming in the channels alongside of schools of mullet. Found you on Sunshine Times.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 3 years ago from USA Author

Tillsontitan - I am truly touched by your complementary and kind comments. One can't help but fall in love with the manatees, those kind and gentle creatures, and to think that we are destroying their habitat is devastating. Thank you so much for stopping by to read and for your comments and votes!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 3 years ago from USA Author

PegCole17 - I'm so glad you enjoyed the pictures and the article on Manatees at Blue Spring State Park in Florida. We have seen manatees in other places, but the views at Blue Springs are really stunning. How lucky you are to have lived in Florida where you could enjoy the manatees and other wildlife often. Thanks for your comments and thanks for tracking me down from the Sunshine Times!

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