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Watch The Manatees At Florida's Blue Spring State Park

Mar 13, 2008
There's a lot to do in Orlando, with tons of attractions and entertainment options, but many of these activities are quite pricey. If you are in Orlando and looking for a great family outing that won't dent your budget, then you should plan to spend some time at the Blue Spring State Park, in Orange City Florida. Here you can camp, swim, hike, canoe and get a close up look at the Manatees.

Manatees, also known as sea cows, are large, gentle aquatic mammals that have been associated in popular folklore with mermaids. Located on the St. Johns River, Blue Spring State Park is a designated Manatee refuge. Temperatures in the spring run remain a constant 72 degrees; creating a safe haven for the West Indian Manatee. Manatees seek out the 72-degree warmth of Blue Spring when winter chills the St. Johns River.

You can watch these endangered mammals from a boardwalk along the spring run. Best viewing is in the morning or late afternoon. In November the first of the migratory West Indian Manatees arrive. Once the manatees have arrived the park offers a daily interpretive program for visitors

As interesting as the manatees are, the park offers many other great activities. If you enjoy canoeing and kayaking, then you can canoe along the beautiful Blue Spring Run and the St Johns River. Canoes may be rented at the Park Concession.

There are also boat tours down the St. John's River. The two-hour tours are offered daily at 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM. The trip is a narrated nature and ecological cruise which lets you see the real Florida. For fees and reservations, you can call these numbers: 407.330.1612, 386.917.0724.

Do you like hiking? Then the park's nature trails will be of interest to you. The same pristine beauty enjoyed by Florida's earliest residents still can be seen today. A self-guided boardwalk guides visitors through a lush hammock to Blue Spring.

You can enjoy some great picnicking at two separate picnic areas in the park. There are covered pavilions with grills located at these areas for larger groups. One of the picnic areas also has a large covered barbecue pit, and can be reserved, for a fee, from October through March. Contact the park office for details.

Of course if you are in Florida you have to swim as much as you can. The park offers swimming and scuba-diving in a crystal clear, 72 degree spring run. Scuba-divers must register at the entrance station between the hours of 8 AM. And 3 PM, with an up-to-date certification card and a partner. Swimming or diving with the manatees is NOT permitted..

If you want to spend more than a day at the park, you can take advantage of cabin rentals, full facility camping or primitive camping.

Blue Spring State Park offers six , two bedroom cabins. Each cabin is equipped with a gas fireplace (available for use November through March), central heating and air conditioning, bathroom, fully equipped kitchen (stove and refrigerator), screened in porch, outdoor grill and picnic table. Linen, pillows, blankets and towels, cooking and eating utensils are also provided. Reservations may be made up to 11 months in advance by calling ReserveAmerica, toll-free, at 1-800 326-3521 (8:00 am to 8:00 pm), 1-888-433-0287 (TDD) (For Hearing Disabled.)

You can also take advantage of the park's full facility camping. There are 51 campsites, which are located in the sand pine scrub. Available to each site is a table, water, electricity, and a grill. There is no sewage facilities at these sites, but there is a dump station in the Park. Pets are permitted in camping area, with proof of rabies vaccination. Reservations may be made up to 11 months in advance by calling ReserveAmerica, toll-free, at 1-800 326-3521 (8:00 am to 8:00 pm), 1-888-433-0287 (TDD) (For Hearing Disabled.)

If you are more adventurous you can try the primitive camping option. Primitive camping requires a four-mile hike to and from the site. All food, water and garbage must be carried in and out.

How much does this cost? The park admission fee is $5.00 per vehicle. Pedestrians,bicyclists and extra passengers are charged $1.00. The camping fee is $20.00 (plus tax) per night and the cabin fee is $85.00 (plus tax)

If this sounds like a good outing for you, then visit the park's website at http://www.floridastateparks.org/bluespring/ for more information and start planning your trip now.
About the Author
Mark Whichard writes frequently about Orlando Tourism. He and his wife Susan are Orlando vacation rentals experts and their website http://www.orlandosfinest.com offers the best deals on vacation home rentals, condo rentals and villa rentals in the Orlando area.
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