An hour’s drive from Gainesville and two from Jacksonville, Tampa and Orlando lies a clear-water spring that is home to the West Indian manatee. This spring is located inside Manatee Springs State Park, a public recreation area in Levy County, Florida.
Manatee Springs flows directly into the ancient Suwannee River. This area has attracted humans for more than 10,000 years and many artifacts have been discovered throughout the park and in the spring.
Today boardwalks along the spring and through the lush forest provide guests with a close up view of the manatees as well as various other wildlife that lives within this Florida state park. Visitors also have opportunities for boating, swimming, scuba diving, fishing, camping, picnicking and more.
Come discover this paradise for yourself and get a glimpse of nature and wildlife up close. The park provides picnic areas, concessions, a playground, canoe rentals and more to make your stay an enjoyable one.
If you’ll be camping inside the park check out the Ranger programs, including campfire circles, at the amphitheater near the waterfront.
Here are some more activities that you can do during your visit to Manatee Springs State Park:
Boating at Manatee Springs State Park
Kayak or canoe year round along the picturesque Suwannee River. Bring your own or rent from the park’s concession (open year round). A boat ramp is available just outside of the park and motor boats can access the park by tying off at the floating dock on the river and walking along the boardwalk into the springs area.
Swimming at Manatee Springs State Park
Swim in the beautiful warm waters of Manatee Springs. Be aware that the current may be swift and swim only in designated areas. Scuba diving is allowed in the springs, including cave diving. All divers must be certified and aware of the park’s rules and regulations regarding safe diving procedures.
Hiking at Manatee Springs State Park
Manatee Springs State Park has more than 8 miles of trails through the forest and past swamps, ponds and sinkholes. The boardwalk along the spring and Suwannee River is also a popular spot to walk and to observe wildlife.
Here are a couple of the trails at Manatee Springs State Park:
- The Sink Hole Trail – Easy 0.6 mile loop that winds through the oak, hickory, magnolia and holly trees and past large sinkholes.
- The Scenic Trail – Easy 3.7 miles through the swampland and past the springs. Great trail for viewing manatees, alligators and other park wildlife.
Biking at Manatee Springs State Park
Bring your bikes and ride along the park’s paved roads and the 8 miles of multi-use trails throughout the woods inside the park. These trails connect to the 32 mile Nature Coast State Trail!
Fishing at Manatee Springs State Park
Catch catfish, largemouth bass, mullet and various panfish in the Suwannee River and along the boardwalk above the spring run. Be sure to pick up a Florida fishing license ahead of time.
Birding at Manatee Springs State Park
You’ll see many species of birds both native and migratory during your visit to Manatee Springs State Park. Look for Eastern Wood-Pewees, American Robins, Hermit Thrushes, Blue-headed Vireos, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Barred Owls, Northern Parulas and more.
Nature and Wildlife at Manatee Springs State Park
A visit to Manatee Springs State Park is an opportunity to see these beautiful creatures -the manatee – in their natural environment. The park is an important refuge for the West Indian manatees with November through April being the best time to observe them.
The boardwalk across the cypress swamp is an ideal spot to view the various species of wildlife that may be found within the park. See turtles, snakes, fish, birds, raccoons, deer, armadillos and the American alligator during your visit.
Pets at Manatee Springs State Park
Rest assured, pets are welcome at Manatee Springs State Park, as long as they are well-behaved and kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet. Pets are not permitted inside park buildings, boardwalks or in the beach area.
Camping at Manatee Springs State Park
No need to search for a campground outside the park, Manatee Springs State Park has 80 campsites for RVs or tents and all are within walking distance to the park’s day use areas. All campsites have electric and water hookups.
The park also has two primitive group camping areas for youth groups. These campsites fit up to 35 people (one adult per each 12 children is required). A portable toilet, an outdoor shower, drinking water and a fire circle are located within this area.
Manatee Springs State Park
11650 NW 115th St
Chiefland, FL 32626
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Manatee Springs State Park: