2008 Keys 2 Canada travel blog

the rain came as we were leaving

the road east

the intra coastal waterway - gulf version

to look at the countryside you wouldn't know they are in the...

more rain is predicted for tomorrow

Manatee Springs

we're back in the land of Spanish moss

Manatee Springs

even in the fading light it was beautiful

it's about 25 feet deep here

looking toward the river

deer

cypress forest

where the spring joins the river

vultures

more vultures

Suwannee River

dock

the trees are alive with vultures

some fighting over a branch to roost on

view upriver

hard to photograph a flying vulture at dusk

view downriver

vulture condo

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Vultures


A Florida treasure - Saturday, November 29

All good things come to an end, and so it was with our peaceful Thanksgiving drop out on St. Joe Peninsula. Our next destination is Tampa, a lot more hectic and a seven hour drive east and then south. We want to be there by Sunday night, and we decided to make it a two day drive, so we left St. Joe at noon on Saturday and headed for another Florida State Park at Manatee Springs.

Manatee Springs is about half way to Tampa and the drive was a leisurely ride across the rest of the Panhandle and then south a few miles down the west side of the Florida Peninsula. By the time we got there it was late afternoon and a sign near the entrance said, “Campground Full”. Experience told us to ignore the sign and check it out anyway, and sure enough they had several open sites. We scored a nice site in the sand and palmettos, then took off on a walk to see the spring.

Despite several years of drought there is still a lot of water in Florida, and much of it comes welling out of the ground in a number of natural springs. Florida classifies their springs by the volume of water they emit. The largest springs are called ‘first magnitude springs’ meaning they discharge at least 65 million gallons of water a day. Of the 33 first magnitude springs in Florida, Manatee is about average, emitting from 50 to 150 million gallons of water a day, depending on a number of factors. The water is crystal clear.

Water from Manatee Springs flows into the Lower Suwannee River a few hundred yards west, and from there another fifteen miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Manatee Springs gets it’s name from the manatees that frequent these waters in the winter months. Manatees are sensitive to cold, and since the spring water stays at a constant 72 degrees the animals migrate to it when the ocean and river waters get too cold for them.

The pictures on this page do not do justice to the clarity of the water, which averages 25 feet deep and is so clear you can see every grain of sand on the bottom. We walked the banks of the spring all the way from it’s source to the place where it joins the river, and while we didn’t see any manatees, we did see a horde of vultures. They were everywhere, flying back and forth across the spring, floating in circles on the thermal updrafts and roosting in raucous clusters in the tops of the tallest trees.

Since vultures are scavengers their presence usually means that something nearby is dead. Seeing seven or eight circling overhead is creepy enough, but seeing several hundred looking down at you can be downright disturbing - until you read the sign that tells you it’s quite OK and all very natural. Vultures just like Florida, and while they’re not exactly what you picture when you hear the word ‘Snowbird’ their presence is just as natural as the convoys of northerners that jam the freeways every year at this time.

As long as we don’t see them circling over our RV I guess we’re OK.



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