On Wednesday, November 2, 2022 we left Fort McAllister State Park near Savannah, GA and drove 4 hours to Manatee Springs State Park in Chiefland, FL for a six-night stay. This stay is mostly just a rest and relaxation stop before we head to Central Florida for what will be a VERY busy 2 months full of celebrations, holidays and lots and lots of errands we would have to do.
We arrived at Manatee Springs State Park around 2pm, a little ahead of the 3pm check-in time but our site was ready so we were able to get set-up a little early. We were in site 21 in the Magnolia 1 Camping Area and it was a nice site with a good deal of open area around us. It also provided us with a nice distance of walking to get to the actual springs and the nearby Suwannee River. That was good because while we were there we only went on one short portion of the 8 1/2 miles of trails to the north of the camping area. We just mostly used the nearby camping roads and the 800-foot long boardwalk that goes through the majestic Cypress forest on the edge of the Suwannee River and south side of the Manatee Spring for our daily walks with Bella.
The cool waters of Manatee Springs have been enjoyed by people for at least 10,000 years, from early Paleo Indians to modern-day park visitors such as ourselves. This spring releases more than 100 million gallons of water daily, making it a popular cooling off spot for a variety of animal life such as fish (we saw lots of those), alligators (heard a few), birds (a wide variety), and humans. There is a nice little wading area (though signs abound warning of alligators) where you can enjoy the 70-degree temperature water while constantly scanning for those pesky gators.
And true to its namesake, manatees can be seen in cooler months as they seek warmer waters. Sadly for us it was a little too early in the season for there to be any of those gentle giants slowly making their way through the water.
Nearby Catfish Hotel is the entrance to an underwater system of caves that are popular with divers. No swimming is allowed here, only certified scuba divers who have registered with the ranger station before making a dive into the caves. We walked over there a few times during our stay but, like the manatees, never saw any divers entering or exiting the entrance. I’ve always wanted to learn to scuba dive in open water, however I don’t think I’d like doing it in caves. But it would have been interesting to talk to a cave diver or two if we had been presented with the opportunity.
As I mentioned at the beginning, this was a rest and recharge stop for us before a whirlwind of activities for the next 60 days, so we took it easy and relaxed during this stay. No sightseeing, just daily walks with Bella, simple meals and lots of reading.
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