Manatee are huge blobby looking creatures that float around in the water eating green stuff. Because of their close encounters with boats, they are endangered. Otherwise, they have no real predators except us, especially once they are full grown when they can weigh over a ton. They are very vulnerable to water temperature so this time of year the ocean is much too cold for them, but the 104 million gallons of 73º water pouring out of the Blue Springs into the St. John River every day is just right. The manatee hang around here until the ocean is above 70º and they head to the coast to eat green stuff that grows in salt water. Except for the mother/child relationship they are not social creatures, but because they have to congregate where they can survive in winter, hundreds of them bob around at Blue Springs State Park
The park makes it easy for us to see these strange creatures without bothering them. A boardwalk was built originating at the outlet of the springs and along the river that flows into the St. John. People can walk along peering at the manatee from above and they hardly know we are there. Of course, when someone does something stupid like dropping their cell phone into the water while they are taking a photo, that changes the situation a bit. A ranger came with a net to fish out the phone as the chagrined teenage boy in question was comforted by his parents. A group of manatee came over to investigate and delayed the rescue operation for a while. They were also intrigued by one of their brethren who wore a floating sensor suspended from his tail. They treated it like a toy. I thought perhaps it was a monitoring device, but I heard someone say that this manatee was being treated for an illness. Except for these man-made interruptions, watching the manatee float around was like watching paint dry OR a bucolic scene which could calm the highly stressed and enhance your alpha brain waves. It all depends on your state of mind.
Birds, turtles, and alligators enjoy this Eden and huge fish share the water with the manatee. Once the manatee head out, the park changes character drastically and becomes a haven for tubers and swimmers, looking to escape the heat of summer. 73º water would be mighty appealing that time of year and it was easy to imagine the boardwalk full of delighted kids running to plunge into the water. Jacques Cousteau came here in 1971 to film the manatee and brought the area to people's attention, greatly influencing the state's decision to buy the land and make it into a park. We thank him greatly.
The manatee are difficult to photograph, so you might want to look at the Blue Springs webcam
, which shows what's going on whenever the manatee are there.