Springs Fever: A Field & Recreation Guide to 500 Florida Springs.
2nd Edition by Joe Follman and Richard Buchanan

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Manatee Springs

Levy County

Summary of Features

  • Scale -1st magnitude
  • Scenery -excellent
  • How Pristine? -well-integrated board- and sidewalks, retaining wall around spring and run, manmade beach area, building and boat ramp near run
  • Swimming -fine
  • Protection -excellent
  • Crowds -heavy on warm weekends
  • Access -excellent
  • Facilities -excellent
  • Safety -excellent
  • Scuba -yes
  • Cost -$6 per car load


Directions. Address: 11650 NW 115 Street, Chiefland, FL 32626, (352) 493-6072. Web link: www.floridastateparks.org/park/Manatee-Springs

In Chiefland, at junction of U.S 19/98 and SR 320, turn west on 320 and drive about 6 miles to park gate.

Spring Description

The spring lies on the edge of a floodplain, with low, swampy landon the north side and banks with higher, drier land on the south. The main spring pool area is circular and was about 80 feet across on dates of visitin 1997-1999. Water in the pool is very clear and varies from blue to green, depending on lighting conditions and the level of the nearby Suwannee River. Water issues from a large cave entrance at a depth of about 40 feet. There are underwater limestone edges and outcrops in the pool. The spring hasa strong flow with intermittent surges (see Local Springiana below). There is a cavern at the spring leading to a nearby sinkhole (called Catfish Motel) 300 feet to the SE.

There are concrete and wood steps and platforms along the south side of the pool, and a small sandy beach on the north side about 100 feet downstream of the pool. The spring run is about 400 feet long, 40-60 feet wide, 5-10 feet deep, and has abundant flora and fauna. There is also a boat launch along the run.  Manatees use the spring in the winter. Cypress and hardwoods surround the spring and run except in the cleared park areas, and there is eelgrass in the water.

Use/Access

Local Springiana

William Bartram, the noted 18th century explorer, botanist, and writer, visited Manatee Springs in 1773. A portion of his description follows:

We now ascend the crystal stream; the current swift; we entered the grand fountain, the expansive circular basin . . . The ebullition is astonishing, and continual, though its greatest force of fury intermits, regularly, for the space of thirty seconds of time: the waters appear of a lucid sea green colour, in some measure owing to the reflection of the leaves above: the ebullition is perpendicular upwards, from a vast ragged orifice through a bed of rocks, a great depth below the common surface of the basin, throwing up particles or pieces of white shells, which subside with the waters at the moment of intermission, gently settling down roundabout the orifice, forming a vast funnel. At those moments when the waters rush upwards, the surface of the basin immediately over the orifice is greatly swollen or raised a considerable height; and then it is impossible to keep the boat or any other floating vessel over the fountain; but the ebullition quickly subsides; yet, before the surface becomes quite even, the fountain vomits up the waters again, and so on perpetually (Travels of William Bartram, 1928, p. 196).
Bartram was also struck by the lack of predation in Manatee Springs and its run, and attributed this to the clarity of the water which precluded the possibility of surprise attack:
Behold the water nations, in numerous bands roving to and fro, amidst each other; here they seem all at peace . . . When those different tribes of fish are in the transparent channel, their very nature seems absolutely changed; for here is neither desire to destroy nor persecute, but all seems peace and friendship. Do they agree on a truce, a suspension of hostilities? Or by some secret divine influence, is desire taken away? Or are they otherwise rendered incapable of pursuing each other to destruction (p. 195)?
Today, Manatee Springs does not flow with this amount of force, although it does have minor surges on a regular basis. Bartram, whose descriptions are known for the their great accuracy, also noted that the Suwannee River was clear near Manatee Springs.

Manatee Springs was the first major spring that was preserved by the Florida Park Service. Acquisition was in 1949, and the park opened in 1955.

Personal Impressions

Manatee Springs is one of the best and most appealing springs in Florida, and is very well managed and cared for, providing a good balance of conservation and recreation.

Nearby Springs

Other Nearby Natural Features