Friday, March 8, 2013

Florida Manatees and Hot (Warm) Springs

The Florida manatee, Florida’s state marine mammal and an endangered species, is a large aquatic relative of the elephant. They are gray-brown in colour and have thick, wrinkled skin on which there is often a growth of algae. Their front flippers help them steer or sometimes crawl through shallow water. They also have powerful flat tails that help propel them through the water. Despite their small eyes and lack of outer ears, manatees are thought to see and hear quite well. (click on pictures to enlarge them)

Manatee at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Parks

Manatees prefer water that is 68F or warmer and migrate "North" to the warm spring and power plant fed waters around Homosassa and Crystal Springs in the winter. 

In this area there are many opportunities to go on boat trips to see and swim with the manatees. They are very calm animals and often will not be afraid of  swimmers or divers, particularly where they are frequently present. Manatees are endangered species and it is against the law for swimmers or divers to hold onto manatees or to alter their behaviour in any way. However, manatees are curious animals and will sometimes approach people in the water. We choose instead to visit them in the state park - I was not crazy about the idea of swimming in the water with something bigger that me. 

The Homosassa River runs through the park:

And the manatees live in warm, spring fed, pools in the section of the river included in the park. The park also has a Manatee Care Centre that cares for sick and injured manatees:

There were 3 manatees in the tank we could see:

Incidentally, Florida's naturally occurring springs are not like those found in Yellowstone. Water in the Yellowstone springs comes from deep within the ground and is heated by the geothermal activity beneath the earth's crust.

The springs in Florida are not geothermal or hot springs. They represent the "end of the pipe" of the Floridan aquifer, a layer of relatively shallow limestone underground that stores virtually all of Florida's groundwater. In some areas the limestone is very close to the surface and this is where springs form. The water underground stays at a constant 68 to 70 degree temperature.

Some springs support entire ecosystems with unique plants and animals. They also flow into rivers (like the Homosassa) that are dependent on the springs' clean fresh water. The springs also represent the visible part of the Floridan Aquifer, the underground supply of most of Florida's drinking water. If the springs are unhealthy, it's an indication of the quality of water that Florida residents drink, cook with, etc. Additionally, Florida's springs are beautiful environments that are enjoyed by people who visit from around the world.

Click here for more information about this Park.

We are loving our visit to this area, called Florida's Nature Coast. There is so much to see and do. And eat - there are several interesting restaurants. To see more pictures of our visit to Florida's Nature Coast check out our Facebook page. I am not an expert on this but I don't think you need to be a member of Facebook to view this page.

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