Between January and March Florida’s manatee population heads toward the warmer waters of Florida riverside springs and power plants. It is an important time for the survival of the manatees who numbered 4,831 a year ago despite a record 829 known deaths in 2013.
While boat propellers, the Red Tide, and pollution are causes for the deaths of many manatees, freezing water temperatures can cause serious damage to these endangered giants. For people who don’t scuba or snorkel or kayak Florida’s rivers, the winter gatherings of manatees give Florida visitors a front row look at the gentle sea cows.
Our favorite viewing areas for manatees include:
The Manatee Viewing Center at Apollo Beach: Tampa Electric’s power plant at Big Bend sends a clean warm discharge that attracts large herds of manatees to the walkways of this federally designated sanctuary.
Homosassa River State Park‘s home population of manatees usually have a lot of mantees from the Gulf of Mexico and the park has three manatee programs everyday as well as an underwater observatory.
Three Sisters Springs off King’s Bay on the Crystal River attracts over 100 manatees in the winter months. While canoe and kayak rentals can bring you above the springs, there is a viewing boardwalk on the shoreline.
Haulover Canal in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is where manatees swim from Mosquito Lagoon into the Indian River.
Blue Spring State Park in Orange City attracts some 300 manatees to travel southward along the St. Johns River in search of warmer waters. During the winter months diving and canoeing are prohibited to give the manatees full rule. The good news: the manatees come near the viewing areas.
You will find manatees along the rivers of South Florida from November to March so keep your eyes open for Florida’s slow moving sea cows.