Blue Spring State Park
Central Florida Manatee Hotspot
Located 2 miles from Orange City near Deland, FL, Blue Spring State Park is one
of Florida's most important manatee wintering
A half-mile boardwalk
skirts the length of Blue Spring run, making this the only place in the
world where dozens of manatees can so easily be seen from land.
The boardwalk, which is easily wheelchair accessible, has several platforms extended
over the 72-degree water. These provide excellent views
of the manatees, which winter here from around mid-November to mid-March.
Blue Spring flows directly into the St. Johns River. Once water temperatures in the St. Johns warm
up each spring, the manatee herd disperses until the
Since there is no
vegetation growing in the spring run, manatees sometimes make
short forays into the river for food during the winter.
The best time
for manatee viewing is early on a cold morning,
shortly after the park opens. Later in the day, some of the animals
may move into the St. Johns to feed.
Take a pair of binoculars
to best see the animals as they rest on the bottom, then rise to the
surface to loudly inhale a breath of fresh air.
The boardwalk also passes through
a heavily wooded hammock and ends at the Blue Spring boil.
Fish life in the immediate vicinity of the boil is scarce, due to the
water's low oxygen content.
However, fish watching can
be good just a few hundred feet before reaching the spring boil. Look
in particular for catfish, largemouth bass, garfish and big tilapia.
Understandably, Blue Spring
is a very popular park. On cold winter weekends, be
at the park soon after it opens at 8 a.m. or you may have to line up in your car outside the park until there is an empty
parking space inside.
Visit on a weekday if possible, realizing that even weekdays can be crowded with busloads
of school children (who typically do not arrive before 10 a.m.)
Park rangers offer special audio-visual programs when the manatees are
in residence. Interpretive programs on manatees are offered daily during the manatee season (November 15th-March 1st). Look for posted times near the concession
Click here for the park's above and below water webcams. At the end of January, Orange City hosts the weekend-long Blue Spring Manatee Festival.
Spring State Park or call 386/775-3663. Open 8 a.m. until sunset year-round.
Campsites and vacation cabins are
available. Located at 2100 W. French Ave.,
Orange City FL 32763.
To Where to See Manatees
To Florida Manatees Homepage
Go To Monthly