Manatee Springs State Park - Chiefland, Florida
Manatee Springs State Park
A huge spring that feeds the Suwannee River near
Chiefland, Manatee Springs is the centerpiece of a
popular Florida state park.
Manatee Springs
The spring draws visits from
manatee, which come up the
Suwannee to find warmer
water during the winter.
Bartram at Manatee Springs
The famed naturalist and
explorer William Bartram
visited Manatee Springs in
Manatee Springs State Park - Chiefland, Florida
Bartram's Admirable Spring
Copyright 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Updated: March 27, 2014
Millions of Gallons Daily
Manatee Springs produces
an average flow of 100 million
gallons of water per day. It
feeds the historic Suwannee
West Indian Manatee
A park display helps visitors
learn about the West Indian
Manatee, which is a common
sight at Manatee Springs in
the winter.
Manatee Springs State Park is located on the
banks of the historic
Suwannee River near
Chiefland, Florida.

Home to magnificent Manatee Springs, the
park offers sightseeing, swimming, fishing,
camping and a variety of other activities. It is
a great place to see West Indian Manatee
during the winter.

One of the largest of the more than 700
natural springs in Florida, Manatee Springs
is formed by the state's unique karst
topography. Limestone beneath the surface
of the earth is slowly eroded by water, a
process that allows caves, sinks and springs
to form.

Experts believe that Florida has the largest
concentration of natural springs in the world.

People have been coming to Manatee
Springs for thousands of years. Artifacts
uncovered at the park by archaeologists
show that prehistoric American Indians used
the spring as a source of food for thousands
of years before the time of Christ.

One of the first significant towns of the
Seminole Nation was located nearby. While
on his famed 1774 visit to Florida, naturalist
William Bartram visited this village and took
advantage of an opportunity to see what he
called the "admirable Manate Spring."

Coming down the Suwannee in a canoe,
Bartram and a companion paddled up the
spring run to the main basin:

...[W]e entered the grand fountain, the
expansive circular bason, the source of which
arises from under the bases of the high
woodland hills, nearly half encircling it. The
ebullition is astonishing, and continual,
though its greatest force of fury intermits,
regularly, for the space of thirty seconds of
time: the waters appear of a lucid sea green
color, in some measure owing to the
reflection of the leaves above...
Travels through North and South Carolina;
Georgia, East and West Florida,

Bartram was fascinated by the West Indian
Manatee, which he saw at the spring:

...The flesh of this creature is counted
wholesome and pleasant food; the Indians
call them by a name which signifies the big
beaver. My companion, who was a trader in
Talahasochte last winter, saw three of them at
one time in this spring: they feed chiefly on
aquatic grass and weeds.
- William Bartram,
Travels, 1792.

Visitors to Manatee Springs can still admire
the manatee today, just as William Bartram
did 440 years ago. During the winter months
they seek to escape the colder waters of the
Gulf of Mexico by swimming up spring-fed
Florida rivers like the Suwannee.

Because the springs flow at the same
temperature year-round, they provide warm
water refuges for the manatee during the
winter. When the weather warms, the special
creatures make their way back to the Gulf,
clearing the way for swimmers to enjoy water
that feels ice cold during the summer.

An exhibit at Manatee Springs provides
information on the West Indian Manatee.
Visitors often see them swimming in the
main spring basin, or basking in the sun
along its banks.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the
Suwannee River was a major transportation
route. Paddlewheel riverboats churned up
and down the river past Manatee Springs,
carrying people as well as cargoes of cotton,
lumber and naval stores.

Manatee Springs State Park is located at
11650 N.W. 115th Street; Chiefland, Florida.
Admission is $6 per vehicle ($4 for single
occupant vehicles. Pedestrians and
bicyclists can enter for $2 each.

In addition to swimming, snorkeling at diving
in the first magnitude spring, the park offers
camping, picnicking, hiking, 8 miles of
mountain bike trails, fishing and more.

Canoe and kayak rentals are available
through Anderson's Outdoor Adventures,
which operates a concession in the park.
Please click here for pricing and more

Manatee Springs State Park also offers
Conestoga wagon rides along its north trail
system during the spring and fall. Ranger-led
walking and paddling tours are available
throughout the year.  
Please click here to
check the schedule.

The park is open from 8 a.m. until sundown,
365 days a year. The best time to see the
manatee is during the winter.

Please click here to visit the official website
for more information.
Cave Diving at Manatee
Certified cave divers can
explore Manatee Springs and
Catfish Hotel Sink. Open
water diving is also allowed.
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