Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park - Homosassa Springs, Florida
Long a favorite of visitors to Florida, Homosassa
Springs is known for West Indian Manatee. The
large shape in the center is a swimming manatee.
Visitors watch manatee swim
in the crystal clear waters of
the main spring.
Manatee at Homosassa
An adult manatee warms in
the sunshine along the bank
at Homosassa Springs.
A park ranger discusses the
importance of Homosassa
Springs to Florida's ecology
and offers a glimpse into the
lives of the manatee.
Homosassa Springs State Park - Homosassa Springs, FL
A Playground for the Manatee
The structure at left contains
an underwater observatory
where visitors can see fish
and manatee in their natural
Beautiful year-round, Homosassa Springs is
one of the best places in Florida for visitors to
get up close and personal with the huge
West Indian Manatee that inhabit the state's
Located 75 miles north of Tampa and 90
miles northwest of Orlando in the town of
Homosassa Springs, the springs were long
the center of a privately-run attraction but are
now part of Homosassa Springs Wildlife
State Park. The park was renamed Ellie
Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State
Park in 2009 to honor the late Elli Schiller,
who for many years gave both moral and
financial support to efforts to build parks and
preserve natural areas in Florida.
Located in a rich coastal environment once
frequented by prehistoric Native Americans,
the park is a great place to experience a taste
of this region of Florida as it appeared when
it was the home of the Seminole Indians on
the eve of the Second Seminole War (1835-
1842). Many important sites of that war,
including Dade Battlefield Historic State Park,
the Wahoo Swamp Battlefield and Fort
Cooper State Park, are within about thirty
miles of Homosassa Springs.
The boat ride that takes visitors from the
main visitor center to the spring and wildlife
park passes through a stunning Florida
wetland and forest area that looks much as it
would have 170 years when Osceola and
other Seminole warriors hunted these lands.
The spectacular main spring has been an
attraction for visitors to Florida since at least
the early 1900s. An early Florida railroad ran
down what is now Fishbowl Drive and trains
used to stop to let passengers rest and enjoy
the spring. By the 1930s famed retired
baseball pitcher Dazzy Vance operated a
hunting lodge at Homosassa Springs,
hosting scores of professional baseball
players and holding baseball camps for
Florida youngsters and pro prospects during
the winter months.
At one point the park was home to the trained
animals of the Ivan Tours Animal Actors
company. Among the four-footed movie stars
who lived at Homosassa Springs was Buck
the black bear, famed on television for his
role as "Gentle Ben" in the popular program
of the same name.
The springs area was purchased by Citrus
County in December of 1984 to assure that it
was protected from the housing boom that
was spreading across Florida. Now part of
the Florida State Parks system, Homosassa
Springs WIldlife State Park is among the
jewels of Florida's public parks.
Visitors to Homosassa Springs can see wild
manatee year round. There are six resident
manatee in the main spring and the park
also cares for other manatee recovering from
injuries or sickness until they are well
enough to return to the wild.
Very gentle and slow moving, the manatee of
Florida reach an average length of around 10
feet (although some are larger) and weigh
800-1200 pounds when fully grown. They are
protected under the Endangered Species Act
and live by grazing on underwater vegetation.
At Homosassa Springs, these magnificent
creatures can be views up close and
personal as they often swim along on top of
the water or even rest on the spring banks.
The park also offers an "underwater"
observatory where visitors can view the
manatee through windows in a room that
floats below the surface level of the spring.
You can learn more about the manatee from
the Save the Manatee Club. Please click here
to visit their website.
Homosassa Springs is also home to Lu
(short for "Lucifer"), Florida's only citizen
hippopotamus. Originally brought to the park
as an animal actor back in the 1960s, Lu the
Hippo was facing removal from the park after
it became part of the state park system
because he was non-native wildlife. A public
outcry erupted, however, so Governor Lawton
Chiles named Lu an official resident of the
State of Florida. He remains so to this day.
Other points of interest at Homosassa
Springs include habitats for various types of
wildlife, including the Florida panther. There
are scenic walks along the spring and
adjoining waterways, gardens and an array
of beautiful settings.
The Visitor Center at the entrance to the park
offers numerous interpretive exhibits,
including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services'
Manatee Education Center, displays on local
history and art displays. The park also offers
a cafe, two gift shops and a picnic area.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is
located on U.S. Highway 19 in Homosassa
Springs, Florida. The park is open from 9 to
5:30, seven days a week. The last tickets are
sold at 4:45 p.m. Entry fee is $13 for adults
and $5 for children ages 6-12. Children 5
and under are admitted free with an adult.
Please click here to visit the park's official
website for more information.
Lu the Hippo
Florida's only official resident
who happens to be a hippo,
Lu rests in the sunshine.
|Copyright 2011 & 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: March 25, 2014
Florida Springs & Waterfalls