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Manatee Springs State Park

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Difficulty: Basic Scenery: Good
Location: Chiefland,
Levy County
Distance: 5.5 miles round-trip from Manatee Springs to Yellow Jacket.
Atlas: Page 70 A-1
Last Update: May 2006 Canoe OK: Yes

Photos only Photo-trip - limited details.


Twenty-Four miles of Suwannee River separates the Gulf of Mexico from Manatee Springs State Park, one of Florida's best parks to view the West Indian Manatee. It's hard to believe these 13 foot long, one-ton gray sea elephants (or sea cows as they are commonly referred to) make the journey to live and play in the spring's 72 degree year-round water. But you'll be glad they did. From the boardwalk, or a canoe seat, it's easy to spot their large gray bodies in the 1,000 foot spring run.

While manatee viewing is a highpoint, the park offers some wonderful opportunities for the paddler to explore north-central Florida waters and woodlands. The short 1,000 foot springrun offers inexperienced paddlers a good area to practice before heading out into the much larger Suwannee and canoes can be rented from the park's concessionaire.

At 2.75 miles south of the springs, the Yellow Jacket Campground makes a nice place to stop for lunch or for the more adventurous, a nine mile one-way (or 18 mile roundtrip) from Fanning Springs to Manatee Springs makes a great day trip. If you're tired from all that paddling, the park also offers hiking, biking, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.


From Chiefland, go north on US 19 (US 98) to Manatee Springs Road (SR 320). Turn west (left) and go six miles to the park entrance. A small fee is required. Follow signs to the Day Use Parking Lot to find the canoe launch.

Manatee Springs State Park Photographs

Manatee Springs;Spring.

Manatee Springs
Manatee Springs is the largest spring located within the 2,373 acre park. This first magnitude spring puts out 117 million gallons of 72 degree water a day. Unfortunately, paddling is not allowed at the springhead, but you can swim, snorkel and scuba dive in its crystal clear waters.
Manatee Springs;Camping;Camp;Tent.

The park features 94 camp sites within three loops. All sites have electricity, a picnic table, fire ring and each loop has restrooms with showers and dump stations. The Hickory Loop is best if you tent camp. Call Reserve America at 1-800-326-3521 for more info.
Manatee Springs;Manatee;Florida Manatee;Sea Cow.

Florida Manatees
With a name like Manatee Springs State Park, it would be natural to find manatees, right? If you answered YES, you're correct. During cooler months (November - April) you can see Manatees playing, feeding and resting in the warm spring run. We spotted 9 during a November trip.
Manatee Springs;Suwannee;Suwannee River.

Suwannee River
The Suwannee River is located a short 1,000 feet down the spring run. Starting in Georgia's Okefenokee swamp, the river runs for over 260 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. At Manatee Springs, the river is tea colored, 200-300 yards wide and appeared to have light boat traffic. 24 miles downstream is the Gulf.
Manatee Springs;Environment.

Oaks, magnolia, cypress, maple, cedar and hickory trees are easily spotted throughout the park. Besides manatees, alligators, snakes, raccoons, squirrels and a wide variety of fish and birds are some of the local wildlife. It's common to see deer wandering the campgrounds at dawn and dusk.
Manatee Springs;Yellow Jacket.

Yellow Jacket
Yellow Jacket in Old Town makes a great place to take a break or camp if you don't want to stay at the state park. It's 2.75 miles downriver from Manatee Springs on the west side of the river.