Things To Do In Florida: Homosassa Springs Park, A Manatee And Wildlife Adventure!
The Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park originally was a exotic "petting zoo". Although the manatees have always been a part of the attraction of the area of Homosassa Springs, the Homosassa River area was home to many other animals. In the 1960's the park was home to many exotic animals including a 6,000 lb hippopotamus that is the only non-native animal in the park today.
People visiting the current Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park will be able to see many of the states native animals, including alligators, black bears, bobcats, a panther, deer, eagles, flamingos, and many more. With photo opportunities every few feet and great animal shows happening every hour, this park is great for any adults and families visiting the Sunshine State.
Homosassa Springs Manatees
When most visitors of Florida think of the wildlife they can see on their trip they often think of the Manatee. This aquatic mammal is thought of as one of the most gentle and docile creatures of the sea and is Florida's state mammal. Listed as an "endangered" species by the United States and as "vulnerable to extinction" by the World Conservation Union, Manatees are a special sight in the Florida wildlife setting. They are about 1,000 lbs and 9 ft long; not close to the "mermaids" they were mistaken for by early explorers and sailors.
The Manatees at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park are easily seen in an observation station where you can view them from both above and below water. Park rangers feed the manatees and give informative shows to teach young and old about the animals and help them enjoy their visit to the park.
Homosassa Springs Fish
The Manatees are not the only animals viewable from above and below the observation deck at Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park. Many different fish can be easily viewed and even fed. Swimming around the springs one can see Sheepshead, Redfish (Red Drum), Crevalle Jacks, Mangrove Snapper and more. While the springs are fresh water, the relative shortness of the Homosassa River means that most of the river is brackish, or a mixture of fresh and salt water.
Homosassa Springs Birds, Reptiles, And Mammals
Although many people equate the Homosassa Springs State Park with the manatees and even the fish viewed at the springs, there are many other animals to see and learn about at the park. One of the biggest attractions, literally, is Lu, a 6,000 lb Hippopotamus. This hippo has lived his whole life at the park and was granted honorary state citizenship by Governor Chiles when the park was bought by the state and went to strictly native animals. Lu does a daily show that is a must see, especially for children.
Another great animal to see at the park is the Florida Alligator. The park has several large alligators that can be seen next to the hippo exhibit. These reptiles are usually a few feet away from the fence sunning on the small beaches next to their pond.
Other animals to see at the Homosassa Springs State Wildife Park are the Red Wolf, the Black Bear, and the Panther. These mammals are native to Florida and although the Black Bear is making a great comeback from the brink of extinction, the Red Wolf and the Florida Panther are nearly non-existent in the wild in Florida.
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park Info
The Ellie Schiller State Wildlife Park at Homosassa Springs is open 365 days a year from 9 am to 5:30 pm eastern time. The regular entrance fees are $13 per adult and $5 per child age 6 - 12 (children 5 and under are free.) There are also group rates available.
The main park entrance is off of FL Hwy 19 in Homosassa, FL. From this entrance, visitors can choose to take a scenic boat ride up "Pepper Creek" to the west entrance or they can take a ride on a tram. Once inside the west entrance visitors can walk from exhibit to exhibit, catching which ever animial shows they wish along the way. There are bathrooms and concession stands around the park to make sure your visit is as great as possible.
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