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A Nice Surprise at the end of Rainy Days in Manatee Spring

Saturday March 15 2014 – Tuesday March 18, 2014
Manatee Springs State Park, Chiefland, Florida




Saturday was a pack up to move day.  It was supposed to rain that night and all day Sunday so we wanted to get as much done as we could.   I did a load of laundry and we went to the grocery store to refill the coffers.  

There aren’t many stores to choose from here.  It’s Sweetbay or Walmart.   I have been to Sweetbay before and have found some organic things there and alternate milks like almond or coconut.  But not here.  Apparently each area is stocked for its usual shoppers and they are not us.  So we were not able to get everything we needed.  We’ll just have to figure out how to work around that since we are going to an even smaller town tomorrow.   One thing I was very surprised and disappointed in was the only oranges they were selling were from California.  Are you kidding?  I’m in Florida and the grocery in Dunnellon only has California oranges. 

The best thing that happened on Saturday was a short late day visit from Al and Karen who write the blog Wish Upon an RV Star.  They drove up from their winter home near Homosassa just to spend a couple of hours with us.  It was a very nice thing to do and we had a wonderful time just chatting with them about all those things that Full timers have in common.  As you can see we were so busy that I never even got out my camera.  Next time!  Although they are off to Wyoming so it may be more like next year.






Sunday was move day and the forecast was for rain so we wanted to make sure we got to Manatee Springs before it started.  It was only a 51 mile drive and an easy one.   Manatee Springs has two campground loops.  We’ve been here before so I chose the smaller one when making reservations.   It’s been some years since we were here last (2010) and I clearly misremembered that all the sites in the 80’s were very sandy but quite level.  I managed to pick the only non level site in the bunch.  But that’s probably because it was the only one left when I made my reservation.  

After surveying the ground, the slope and our options in the site, we decide to put the RV cross ways so we won’t have any of our wheels off the ground in the downward slope.   Gives us a nice yard but not much of a windshield view.   Whatever.  You do what you gotta do.




We didn’t really set much up and I was lucky to get a few pictures of the site and the pond that it would overlook except for all the vegetation.  But I’m grateful we could drive all the way and get leveled and connected  before the rains came.  And it rained and it rained and it rained.  Poured down.








It rains all night.  Rains all morning.  Still raining! 

We have found that even with our amplifier, we get a very weak signal here in the park.  Not sure what kind of equipment we need but I am certainly envious of all the folks out in the boonies in the west who seem to be able to go to the middle of nowhere and still have equipment to be enable them to be on line to do business and make plans.





This morning I really do have to do some business both for us and for my father so we drive into Chiefland to the only spot in town with public wifi.  The park has wifi at its concession stand but you have to sit outside to use it.  In the rain?  No so much.

Therefore, here we are having breakfast at McDonalds in payment for using their wifi.  I seriously cannot remember the last time I was in McDonalds or ate any of their food.  But, as before, you do what you gotta do. 

I’m trying to plan for our summer which looks like it may take us up into the Great Lakes area rather than out west.  So if any of you have suggestions of what to see and particularly where to stay, please let me know. 

I was trying to look into the Michigan State Parks today and found that they have fees on their fees which makes them mighty expensive.  You have the campground fee $23-$33 and then an $8.50 park pass fee per day per vehicle or you can buy an annual pass for each vehicle for $30.50 each.  Plus an $8 fee for every reservation you make on their website.   Whew, by the time you get finished, your $23 campsite has turned into a $40+ site.  There are some state parks that I did want to visit in Michigan so I guess I’ll either have to bite the bullet since $40 is way out of my budget for sure.  Or I’m going to have to come up with some other ideas along our way to Sleeping Bear Dunes, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Apostle Islands National Lake Shore, Boundary Waters, and Voyageurs National Park.

ALL suggestions eagerly welcomed.

We got back in the afternoon and it was still drizzling and raining off and on.  David took a short walk over to the spring and came back with this picture of the water level.  Nearly 5’.  He said the entire boardwalk is underwater.  Last time we were here it was October and the spring run shore line was clearly visible.  Not today.   This has been such an unusually rainy winter in Florida.  I’m wondering what will happen if summer is its usual rainy self too.





This morning the rain finally ended about 10:00 and everything was soaked.  Our mats were covered with wet sand.  So we let it all dry out which in a sandy environment doesn’t take too long.  The sun never came out brightly but things did dry up a bit though the temperatures remained cool.

I had some business of my father’s to take care of and needed to get some forms downloaded, filled out, notarized, scanned and emailed back.  This took a good part of the morning especially finding a notary in this small town.  




I finally found one, we drove to town to be told that she wasn’t in the office today.   Try H&R Block, two doors down.   No customers and only two employees one of whom is a notary.  GREAT!  But she doesn’t have her stamp with her today.  Further down the block to the bank where I should have gone in the first place.  Suncoast Credit Union was happy to do it for me for free after a short wait.  Now that’s service given that I am not even their customer.  They didn’t charge me the usual $5-$10 fee either.  If you live in Chiefland this should be your bank.

By this time it’s the middle of the afternoon and we’ve had no lunch.

So it’s an early dinner at the picnic table sitting on the newly swept sand free mat.  Then finally I can take a look around the park



I find that one of our neighbors has brought a 3 room hotel.  Wish I’d seen them setting this thing up.  We were tent campers for over 40 years before buying Winnona our first RV and I thought we had a big car tent since David insisted he had to be able to stand up in it.  But it wasn’t this big.  My little backpacking tent could fit inside this hotel about 20 times.



The neighbor right next door to them gets the “who came the farthest” award.  In fact this is the license plate from the farthest away that I’ve seen this winter.  Ontario is pretty common and I’ve seen Alaska and British Columbia.  But not the Klondike.   Hope to get to talk to them.




We walk on over to the spring where there are manatee waiting for us.  How Great!!





They are actually at the bottom of the head spring but definitely within the swimming area.  It’s interesting that here you are allowed in the spring to swim but you cannot paddle your kayak in the spring run.  At Rainbow Springs, you can swim in the roped off swimming area and kayak the head spring and the run.  Just no motors in the run.  


We walk on up the boardwalk to the head spring which like Blue Spring is beautifully natural.  Guess that’s why they both have manatee and I don’t think Rainbow does or at least I’ve never seen them there.






We walk back down to check on the manatee, still there.   And then on down the boardwalk on the way to the spring run mouth as it runs into the Suwannee River.






When we were here the first time in October of 2010, we put our kayaks in right here and paddled down the spring run for a Full Moon paddle on the Suwannee.  It was fantastic.  Here’s the post if you are interested.    But no full moon paddles from here until March 31.  Although there is a public ramp just outside the park that can be used to get into the river.  You cannot paddle from there into the spring run either.

The water is WAY up.  I’m amazed.  Look at the No swimming sign.   There is a board fence at the water line which is now about 6’ out into the water.










We had thought about getting another shuttle so we could put in 9 or 10 miles up stream and come back to the park.  The park concessionaire does this.  But look at the prices.  I think we’ll just paddle up stream as far as we can and ride back down.   Pretty sure I can paddle 3 miles up for $50.




The boardwalk through the cypress swamp is particularly beautiful with the water level up.





Here is the lovely Suwannee River looking up stream.



Looks like the water level has dropped a tad from yesterday in spite of all the rain over night. 




After enjoying the boardwalk and deck on the Suwannee, I want to come back and see if the manatee are still there.  On the way we pass the flood markers pole.  In this high water, it makes me think.   1973 was approximately 6’.  And look at the top one, 1948.  Good heavens is that 10 or 11’???   The latest is 2004 at David’s knees and 1986 at his hips.






Back at the swimming entrance, the manatee is still there although hard to see in this picture which I took because I love the hand rail into the spring.





Below is the swimming entrance at the top at the head spring.  We swam here in 2012 when we were on our week “vacation” from David’s 3 weeks on 1 week off induction treatments before his stem cell transplant.  Our friends Dan and Tricia, who do the blog Down the Road with T&D , drove up from Cedar Key to visit and swim with us. That was such a gift in those scary days. The post of us all in the water is here.




We walk on around the spring head and over to the other side of the lower swimming area.  As I look back across at the entrance, I see this snorkler with a camera getting ready to enter the water.





We watch as he takes pictures of the manatee.  It makes me uncomfortable the way the manatee keeps swimming away from him and he keeps following it.  Back and forth and around and back.   I actually go around to the other side to ask one of the workers what’s going on.  I’m told he has “permission from the state” to take these pictures for advertising purposes.  Sure looked like harassment to me.  He eventually stopped before the manatee is forced to leave the spring.   Advertising.  Do they really need more people here??  The place is full and it isn’t even summer.

Back to that age old question, how much is enough?




Last thing for toady is a picture of a gorgeous old live oak that we pass as we leave the spring area.  The land around the spring was purchased to protect it in 1950 which is probably why it was never turned into an “attraction” like other springs.   Thus the trees have had a good long time to grow and the area really does look completely natural.





Tree hugger at work.



We’re taking a road trip tomorrow so I may or may not get back in time to post about it.  But it will show up here at some point.  You can count on it.


  1. So nice to see Manatee Springs again. We paddled upstream in the Suwanee as well when we were there centuries ago...at least it seems a very long time ago. Currently in the high plateaus of New Mexico with a low tonight predicted of 15F. It's a long way home from Manatee Springs, one of my favorites.

  2. How much is enough? Well that depends on the almighty dollar that the government wants from tourism. What else can I say????

  3. It's a shame that manatees can be harassed for the purposes of marketing. It sounds pretty close to animal cruelty to me.

  4. I would think you have been around enough Manatees for one winter. Good pics of them.
    So you are going solar? Are you guys going dry camping this summer?
    No ideas for MI other than it gets hot there in the summer and Kathy's family heads to the Upper Peninsula to stay cool. The locks are neat to see when a ship passes through, well for me anyway.
    Auto gas tonight was $ 3.59 to $ 3.64 as I drove around. I heard the shortage was over now.
    We really had some pounding rain last night and close lightning with scary thunder, beautiful today.

    1. I'm looking forward to kayaking in the Apostle Islands. Haven't been there yet. We should be in that area in August. Maybe you can do some boondocking in Michigan?

  5. Manatee Springs State Park is my favorite park in the Florida State Sustem. I just love hanging around on the boardwalk watching the manatees for hours..Thank you for reminding me what a great park i am missing this year.

  6. Your FL posts all make me want to go there, I'm sure though we'll do it one of these days. Haven't been in McDonalds in over 10 years but you do what you have to do. Wonder if it's expensive in MI because like VT they have such a short season to be open.

  7. Well, looks like we are sharing the same weather. Finally stopped raining Tuesday out here on the end of the Panhandle;o(( It has just been the strangest winter all over the country. We head to Blackwater River SP today and I am told it might even reach 70 degrees and be sunny!!! I'm with you... can't imagine where all the water is going to go when the "rainy" season arrives!! Manatee Springs is a lovely park:o))

  8. Sorry, can't help much with suggestions for Great Lakes area except to say that what we've seen, we've loved! One summer adventure several years ago had us going up the eastern side of Wisconsin through Door County (to which we want to return someday), spending a couple of weeks in the UP and then heading down the western coastline of Michigan. We managed to be in the UP during the dreaded black fly season which we'd never heard of and still loved the experience there.

  9. Manatee are so large! Sad that the State allows invasion of personal space. I'm sure there are a set of pictures they could reuse. Glad you beat the rains! That's a lot. It's been a wet winter everywhere! Come on spring! We're ready! McDonald's - for shame! ;) But, you gotta do what you gotta do!

  10. We have yet to find any kind of 'grocery' store in our area of Florida that has a good variety of more healthy foods. We like to buy bulk nuts, oatmeal, and a few other things. The comment we get from people at the stores is 'we don't eat too healthy here in Florida'. Geez. Manatee Springs looks terrific. We almost got a job workamping there, but the lack of cell/internet signal made it a deal breaker.

    1. depending on what kind of phone you have you can usually find grocery stores. My Motorola droid has 'local' and I'm able to find all sorts of services

  11. Well be in MI this summer...!! See last post. I may gave some MI links I've saved...I'll email later. Yesterday had a refund check from local tire shop written by PNC Bank..went into cash! No act, $10.00 fee...like it was there darn money...mad!

  12. Good you got settled before the rain came. We were amazed at all the flooding along the beach road on Anna Maria Island. Major lakes in the parking areas and along the road. Made riding the bike a little tricky. Thank goodness it was only a day and took the wind away with it.

    The springs are beautiful. With this cooler winter the manatee may be hanging around longer than usual.

    Enjoy your stay:)

  13. That always amazes me about the produce… Arkansas produces a lot of berries and apples and fruit .. not citrus but we get stuff from Chile! and Mexico ! what?

    I love the upper peninsula of Michigan, Sherry and the PIctured Rocks is gorgoues. What a beautiful place to spend the summer! Since I don't stay in RV Parks, an't help you but do you read Malia? let me fetch her blog…

    I also recommend Door County Wisconsin … all the area around there is unique …
    Look at that tent?! You didn't go inside? that's incredible … I wonder how long it did take them to set that up…

    Blue spring is gorgeous… before I die, I have GOT to see the manatees in their natural environment… just got to

    Hahaaaa nice tree hug

    1. Here's Malia's blog about Michigan ... http://www.michiganmiles.com/

  14. We had a night and day of torrential rains here in Cedar Key, too. The winds were mighty exciting that night! Wow, amazing how high the water is at Manatee Springs. We enjoyed kayaking there last year, and would love to do that full moon paddle sometime. Hope to be seeing you SOON!!!

  15. I know there used to be a Winn-Dixie across the street from Walmart in Chiefland...they could have some aseptic 'milks' on the cereal aisle. we're in Homosassa and have about 6 manatee swimming around the Chassahowitzka. You can kayak right up to them. Yesterday they were quite frisky and I wondered if they were mating?! The rain was torrential! our site was flooded but all is well now

  16. Sounds like the Michigan State Parks are either taking lessons from KOA on their pricing, or Michigan is trying to balance their entire state budget on the backs of campers. All they're going to do is decrease the amount of visitors, especially those with little money, from visiting.

    Thank goodness you had that nice tree to hug and make your day brighter! :c)

  17. In Duluth there is a marina that stores the boats in their parking lot for the winter but in the summer they rent out the parking spaces with water and electric for campers. Its called Lakehead Boat Basin. http://www.lakeheadboatbasin.com/

    Copper Harbor is a nice ride. Campground there that we stayed at is http://www.fannyhooe.com/index.shtml

    Grand Marais is lovely. http://www.grandmaraismichigan.com/woodland-park.php

    And best of all we like Aunne Osborn campground in Sault Ste. Marie. We go here twice a year to watch the freighters. It is a city owned park and opens in May. http://www.sault-sainte-marie.mi.us/aunecamp.htm

    If you want Holland there is a private campground right next to the state park (which is already full for the summer) http://www.oakgroveresort.com/ Hope this all helps. We live in MI.

  18. I guess I need to quit complaining about our windy weather here in the Keys. At least it's sunny and not rainy!

    Last year, we were able to buy a lot more vegan items in the local Publix and Winn Dixie, but I guess no one else was buying it, so they aren't selling much anymore. We have never had any problem buying Almond Milk anywhere...including here in the Keys, so I'm surprised you couldn't find it.

    I think your summer plans sound wonderful, but I can't offer any suggestions.

  19. I must have meant that the entire boardwalk was overwater, not underwater. They seem to have built it high enough above the river to keep it above all but the worst flooding. Another flood like the one in 1948 though would have the entire boardwalk well under water. Nice post and great comments. Glad to see helpful tips for the Great Lakes trip!! ;)


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