March 24, 2009

Blue Spring State Park Florida

I am in heaven being so close to so many beaches here in Florida. In fact on Saturday and Sunday we just explored a couple of beaches and just enjoyed our days taking walks and lying out working on our tan's. Well I worked on my tan and Stijn worked hard at not burning. I think our favorite was the beach at Guana Reserve just about 15 minutes south on A1A. We spent most of the day here and enjoyed finding sharks teeth again like we did this past October in Venice Florida while on a home exchange.

So today, March 9, we are all rested up and ready to do some more exploring. We went to Blue Spring State Park which was about a 2 hour drive to the south. We again decided to take the A1A for obvious reasons, until we had to take the I4 inland to Orange City. The A1A of course took us through St. Augustine where I could see a Lighthouse in the distance and also a sign that there was going to be a Seafood Festival the weekend of March 14th. See why it's good "NOT" to travel along the Interstate. You miss little things like this. So we will definitely be coming back here.

The reason we picked Blue Spring State Park as something we wanted to see while in Flordia was because this is a designated Manatee Refuge to the growing population of the West Indian Manatees. They come here to escape the cooler waters of the St. Johns River between November and March. Blue Spring is an artesian spring and the water is at a constant 68 degrees. And you can rent canoes!

We pay $5.00 to park and set out to walk through the Park on it's elevated boardwalks along the spring waters in hopes of seeing some manatees. We saw some beautiful scenery, but no manatees. So we decide it's time to rent our canoe and paddle out onto the St. Johns River.

It is only $10.00 for the first hour to rent a canoe, so after paying we walk down to the shore line, pick out our canoe and start paddling. We were given a map with some suggested routes to take while we are enjoying this perfectly sunny day on the water.
We first explore a lagoon just to the left of us and as soon as we enter the lagoon Stijn is spotting alligators along the banks. Camera in hand I start snapping pictures. Then up ahead Stijn spots a couple of alligators in the water. More pictures! He's not real excited by the idea that we're not moving while I'm taking pictures and we are in the middle of a lagoon with alligators all around.

Yes, this is a picture of the front of our canoe with an alligator just ahead of us. "Keep paddling" Stijn says with an anxious yet firm tone.

We paddle back out onto the St. Johns River and here we see a few more alligators and some turtles sunning themselves on fallen trees along the banks.

Now we head into an area that is going to take us through a loop and here we see more alligators, turtles and birds. We pass a house boat and wave to the people on board. They inform us that there are a couple of manatees in the area and that we should keep an eye out and maybe we would see one. They also pointed out that there is a "Huge" alligator just ahead of us crossing the water. Cool! After paddling a little further down we can hear the people on the house boat telling us that there is a manatee about 40 yards behind our canoe and he is coming straight towards us. We turn to take a look and we could see the wake of the manatee coming straight in our direction. As he approached our canoe he circled around us and we could see him just below the surface of the water. Magnificent! Then he stopped just behind Stijn, lifted his head out of the water, took a look at us and then re-submerged and swam away. This was the most amazing thing I have ever seen!

Up ahead we did see Mr. Big along the shore to our right and he was "Big"!

Satisfied with all we were able to see, we decide it's time to head back and turn in our canoe. Afterwards we take a little walk over to see the Thursby house which was built in 1872 by Louis Thursby and is a nice little museum that is free with some history on the area along with some artifacts.

This has been an amazing day and I will never forget the experience and the feelings I felt when I saw my first manatee.

If you would like to see more pictures of our day please go to Where's Debbie and click on the album "Blue Spring State Park"

1 comment:

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