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January Heat Wave in Manatee Country

December 31, 2018 - January 5, 2018                                                        Most Recent Posts:
Monday – Saturday                                                                 From Ocean to Spring with a BIG Interruption
Blue Springs State Park                                                                          Our Holiday Fun                          
Orange City, Florida

We arrive at Blue Spring on Sunday  the 30th in the afternoon.  The high is 82.  This is not temperatures that bring manatee to the springs.  The temperature of the water in the St. John’s River into which the Blue Spring Run empties is plenty warm enough for manatee to hang out there and eat the grasses without having to worry about needing a warm spring to avoid getting too cold.

The temperatures for the next 3 days are all in the low 80’s.  Now this might sound like a good thing for those of us wanting warm winters, and it is.  82 is pretty close to hot and a nice dip in the spring sounds wonderful.  EXCEPT that the Blue Spring is closed from November through March so the manatee can use it and not be harrassed.   But they aren’t here and we can’t be in the water either.  The luck of the draw in terms of timing.  When you have to make reservations 11 months in advance in order to be guaranteed a spot, it’s hard to know that the beginning of January is going to have a heat wave.

Because Monday is New Year’s Eve which we pretty much don’t celebrate any more, we lay low.   I do walk down to the spring at dawn but the skies are so gray and foggy my pictures aren’t much and I see no manatee.  By the time I return an hour or so later the park is PACKED with Day Trippers.  It’s just after 8am when it opens.  The rest of the day I mostly do the same sorts of boring chores everyone does whether you fulltime or not - some cleaning,  like sinks and toilets, vacuuming, put out the last Blog on Flagler Beach.  David naps.

On Tuesday, New Year’s Day, I set out early hoping some manatee may be in the run in upper 60’s degree temperatures.   I head down the road from the campsite to the path to the spring which is just beyond site 18.

In the way Rangers do in reciting their spiel when you come up to register, the one here circled our site, marked both bathrooms, the trashdumpter and the dump site.  But what I want to point out with the map is the path to the spring.   I usually choose a site fairly near it since I know I’ll be going there daily.  This year, even site 11 is too far for David to walk.   Also to be considered in choosing a site is the fact that the sites here are sandy and questionably level.  We have two hoss pads under our passenger front tire.  When we first came I chose sites only for proximity to the path and ended up having to use all 6 pads. 

Anyway, I head down the road, turn at the sign and continue down the paved path which is popular with kids for bicycling, skate boarding and scooters so you have to watch out walking.  But not this early in the morning.  Not sure how far it is between the campground and the visitor area but I’m guessing a quarter of a mile or so.  It’s a nice walk which brings me to the gift shop, snack bar and actual boardwalk to the spring.



At the end of the path are the facilities and a floating dock where you can, at the right times, get into the spring run and swim up to the spring head.  It’s closed today but I go down anyway to see if there “might” be manatee.  Nope!

Just beyond the buildings is the Blue Spring Trail boardwalk which takes you to the Blue Spring headwaters.

In spring, summer and fall when the spring is open for swimming, it is also open for snorkeling and scuba diving.  There is a cave at the head spring which you can see from the boardwalk.  We’ve only been here once early or late enough to be able to swim in the spring and watch the snorkelers disappear.


I try to take a picture of the spring run which is really beautiful and natural but it’s just too dark still.


I stop along the way at the second and last swimming snorkeling entry to check for manatee knowing that they won’t be there since the water here is getting pretty warm.

The boardwalk goes up one side of the spring and across the top for viewing.  The entire area has been left natural and is really lovely.  This picture is from the side.  You can see the “cave opening” stretching across.  It’s very interesting to swim there and feel the water coming up.  Much better and “bluer” pictures can be taken with better light.

This is my favorite view, it’s from the top at the end of the boardwalk..


I stay a short time but with no manatee, no swimmers, no birds, no scuba folks, there isn’t much to see other than the beauty of the natural spring itself.  I am so grateful to Blue Spring for making the decision to leave this natural rather than creating a cement case around it for swimming as was done at Salt Springs, Wekiwa Springs and others.

Walking back and looking out into the woods, I spy a great blue heron.  I guess he’s fishing in a little stream running off the Spring Run.



His shades of blue are really striking.


Walking on down the spring run beyond the gift shop and toward the boat launch, I still see no manatee.  But there are some mighty long nose big gar and something large I’m not sure of.  Anyone know what that second fish is.  He was really big.



No boating is ever allowed in the spring run except for the Manatee counters from Save the Manatee Club.  They come up stream each day and count the manatees, check their health and can recognize many of them.   They have both above water and below water web cams that show the manatee if they are there.   They are a fabulous informational source on all things manatee.


I stop at each of the viewing decks along the spring run.  This one is my favorite with the mosaic manatee that apparently doesn’t have a name but I think should have one.


Isn’t she beautiful?   She’s been here for years.


Near the mouth of the Spring Run at the St. John’s river a group of cormorants is congregating on the logs and stumps.   I watch them from the viewing platform.




How about the blue eyes and the webbed feet on this bird.


And then I finallly see the manatee.  At first there are two and then three.  Looks like a mother and two calves, one perhaps this year and one last.

I love their little “hands”.

Manatee are much easier to see from above as on this boardwalk than they are at water level in a kayak.  The way I usally know they are around is when they put their noses up like this and take a deep breath and scare me to death.

Also in the water splashing around is this.  I can’t identify it.  Can you?   It seemed to spin around in the water.  There were several of them.   They were the frenetic opposites of the calm serene manatee.


As the manatee went deeper and out of sight, I walked down to the end of the boardwalk to the boat launch and kayak rental.  There is a guided pontoon river cruise offered here as well.  I think it’s 60 minutes on the St. John’s for $25 a head. 

From the end of the dock, I can look back at the mouth of the spring run and see the kayakers congregating around the barrier.  They are looking for manatee.  The counters are approaching them from within the run.

I know from previous years visiting here that there are a pair of bald eagles which nest in the trees just ahead of me.  I’m lucky enough to see one today.  I come and look every day but this is the only time I see one.


Definitely fierce looking.


This has been a very successful early morning boardwalk hike.  Tomorrow it’s time to get in the kayak on the water.


  1. Such a beautiful and unique area. I'm so glad you found the manatees!! Still on our list of wonderful critters to find. I think the lovely manatee's name is Mosey :-)) We've seen bald eagles in the wild, but your last photo is fantastic!

  2. Hope you got the cool dry weather that came in on Saturday. Great manatee pics.

  3. Oh you sure had a great morning walk. It was your lucky day. The mosaic Mamatee is gorgeous.

  4. You certainly had a successful morning!!! Wonderful photos and the Eagle photo is really special!!! Having spent the last month in cold, wet weather, we are loving this nice warm January so far in Florida:o))

  5. So loved all these great photos of you at Blue Spring. Brought back wonderful memories, the mosaic manatee among them and the live ones. Such a beautiful place.

  6. Great pictures of the manatee & other park features!

  7. Sure love the memories of visiting that park. Great eagle picture :) Happy birthday to David!!

  8. We've never stayed at Blue Spring SP, but your post makes me want to. So happy that you got to see the mama and baby manatees! Your photos of them are delightful. They're definitely not easy to photograph. Your photo of the Bald Eagle is outstanding, too.
    Please don't let it be humid when we get to Florida. :)

  9. I'm glad you were able to see a few manatee. I know you enjoyed the warm weather. We're back in Georgia temporarily and expecting snow this week-end.

  10. Hope the Manatee are still there when we're there in March. Thanks for a preview of Blue Spring SP.

  11. Terrific picture of the eagle, the are such magnificent birds. I get a thrill each time I see one. They are even more amazing to watch when they fly. :c)

  12. My favorite photos by far are the eagles! All the pictures are excellent though.

  13. I think that one big fish may be a catfish or a carp (?) The twirling one I have no idea! How cool to see the manatee, especially with babies. I hope to see them someday, too, so thank you for sharing your journey which helps tide me over until then. It is always a joy to follow along with a kindred critter-spotter!

  14. Loved these pictures and so glad that you saw the manatees. I looked through the comments to see if anyone could ID your fish with the sharp fin. No luck, I guess. Very interesting though. Thank you so much for sharing.

  15. I look forward to your visits to the springs having never seen manatees.

  16. Pretty place! So glad you found the manatees :) That eagle picture is terrific!! So noble.


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