MANATEE SPRINGS STATE PARK
A first magnitude spring, Manatee Springs discharges an average 100 million gallons of water every day. This water comes from rain that falls on lands within a 40 mile radius from the spring. Geologically the surrounding lands resemble a sponge, with sand and the underlying limestone quickly transferring rainfall into deep caverns that deliver the water to the spring from every direction, but mostly from the south and east. The spring is a source of life for many species of fish, reptiles, mammals, birds and invertebrates. From November through April, manatees use the spring's life-giving waters for warmth. During those months the Suwannee River and Gulf of Mexico waters are colder than the constant 72 degrees of the spring. Popular for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving, the headwaters of the spring are an outstanding year-round experience for people as well. The spring run forms a sparkling stream that meanders through towering cypress, tupelo and other wetland trees to join the Suwannee River. During the summer months, huge prehistoric-looking Gulf sturgeon can be seen leaping out of the river as they have done for eons. Enjoy the spring run view by canoe/kayak or on foot along our boardwalk. Children can enjoy a playground in the picnic area, where tables, grills and pavilions are available for family fun. Hiking and biking adventures await on the north end trail system. The full-facility campground is surrounded by hardwood hammocks and upland pine habitats.
NATURE OF THE AREA
Excellent wildlife viewing is available along the boardwalk that winds through the cypress swamp from the spring to the river as well as along the hiking trails.
HISTORY OF THE AREA
Humans have been coming to Manatee Springs for thousands of years. Once a major Timucuan Indian village stood at the springs. The Seminoles hunted the forests and fished the rivers.
Europeans and Americans are the newest visitors to Manatee Springs. All cultures came for the same reason: the natural resources.
In 1949 the State of Florida began buying the springs and the adjacent land to forever preserve it. Manatee Springs opened as a state park in 1955 for the enjoyment of Florida residents and visitors.
Manatee Springs State Park has an 82-site campground with electricity and water in each site. 71 of these sites are available for tent or RV use. There are comfort stations centrally located in each of the loops. Comfort stations provide hot showers, toilets and sink facilities. Even numbered sites 14-34 are for tent camping only. Located in the Magnolia 1 camping area, these sites allow park visitors to camp in a more rustic setting. Pets are allowed in all camping areas. Any pet that is noisy, dangerous, intimidating or destructive will not be allowed to remain in the park.
Manatee Springs State Park has a 82-site campground with electricity and water in each site. 71 of these sites are available for tent or RV use. There are comfort stations centrally located in each of the loops. Comfort stations provide hot showers, toilets and sink facilities. Even numbered sites 14-34 are for tent camping only. Located in the Magnolia 1 camping area, these sites allow park visitors to camp in a more rustic setting. Pets are allowed in all camping areas. Any pet that is noisy, dangerous, intimidating or destructive will not be allowed to remain in the park.
Organized groups of six or more can camp in the Primitive Youth Camp Area. These facilities offer drinking water and an outdoor shower. These areas are reserved for non-profit, organized groups.
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Swimimg activities can be enjoyed in the natural feature of this beautiful first magnitude spring. Use caution, the current is swift.
Motor boats can tie off at our floating dock located on the river. The park can be accessed by the 300 yard boardwalk into the spring?s area.
Canoeing and kayaking is available year round down the famous Suwannee River. The Park offers rentals and livery service via contracted Concessionaires. There is a canoe launch into the spring run, portage of canoe or kayak over a distance of about 200 feet from vehicle drop off area to the launch is required. Between December 1 and March 30 each year, the spring run launch site is closed for the protection of manatees. During this four month period canoes/kayaks can be launched from a floating dock on the river by portage of canoe along a 1200 foot boardwalk. Canoes/kayaks can also launch from two boat ramps on the river, one located on the north end of the park and one on the south end, each is about 1 mile from the park?s main entrance. Both of these are accessible by driving outside the park. Ask for directions at Ranger Station.
Freshwater fishing from the park's boardwalk along the spring run and in the Suwannee River is always popular. Largemouth bass, catfish and a variety of panfish will delight the lucky angler.
Snorkeling can be enjoyed in the natural feature of this beautiful first magnitude spring. Use caution, the current is swift.
Scuba divers must present their certification upon registration. Open water, cavern and cave diving is available in Manatee Spring or Catfish Hotel Sink. Dive instructors are required to purchase a Commercial Dive Permit. All divers are required to register with the office prior to diving.
Manatee Springs State Park offers 8.5 miles of nature trails that wind through cypress swamps, sinkhole ponds and uplands.
Bicycles are welcome on all the park's roads. Mountain bikers can enjoy over eight miles of wooded off road trails within the park.
Rangers present guided tours along Sink Trail, the waterfront boardwalk, and an occasional night walk. Conestoga Wagon rides are offered seasonally (fall and spring) along the north trail system. Ranger led paddling programs are scheduled throughout the year. Most ranger led programs are free with paid park admission. Call the park at 352-493-6072 for more information.
Well-behaved dogs are welcome at Manatee Springs State Park. They must be kept on a 6-foot leash at all times and can not be left unattended for more than a half-hour. Dogs are not permitted in buildings or swimming area.
Because the close proximity can lead to problems between dogs meeting on the boardwalk, pets are restricted from boardwalks. Pets on a leash and controlled by owners can wade into the spring run at the canoe launch facility.
Pet camping is available in our campground. Florida law requires that pets be vaccinated against rabies. Pets must be confined, leashed, or otherwise under the physical control of a person at all times. Leashes must be hand-held and may not exceed six feet in length. Pets must be well-behaved at all times and must be confined in the owner's camping unit during designated quiet hours (11:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.). Unconfined pets must be leashed and cannot be left unattended for more than thirty minutes. Pet owners are required to pick up after their pets and properly dispose of all pet droppings in trash receptacles. Pets considered a nuisance are not allowed to remain in the park.
Manatee Springs State Park is located at the end of S.R. 320, off U.S. 98, six miles west of Chiefland.