Backstory and Context
Manatee Springs is an all-natural spring located in the heart of Chiefland Florida. In other words, you can find this spring more towards the northern part of Florida. A fun fact about this spring’s location is that it is 133 miles west of our very own state capitol, Tallahassee. This spring occupies nearly two and a half thousand acres along levy county which is the county in which Chiefland is located.
Manatee Springs is much more than just a spring, this spring has many geographical features. In addition to the vast spring, there are ongoing miles of nature trails in the park that will lead you to cypress swamps, sinkhole ponds, and even diverse uplands. Over 26,000 feet of the cave has been mapped out making manatee springs one of the longest system in North America, (Florida springs institute, Odum). Something I find very interesting about this state park is the unique cave system, there are four caves in which divers may explore yet only two are accessible to divers, the entrances that are restricted to divers is because you must have certification. The two cave entrances divers are permitted to use are known as, the Headspring entrance and Catfish Hotel. To enter through “Sue sink” and “Friedman’s sink” you will be required to show proof of diver certification. One very popular cave is known as “Catfish hotel”, which you don’t need diver certification for. You can spot marine fossils found all over the cavern ceiling and walls. (Extreme Exposure, Gamble). Cavern divers can find a large cavern area due to their expertise, with depths extending to about 70’ within the daylight zone within Catfish hotel. The Headspring entrance is more commonly known for snorkeling rather than entering the caves due to the high pressure of water flow. Not only does this spring have crystal clear waters yet the historic and thick limestone sediment covering the area make the scenery even more enchanting. The Manatee springs are known for being the longest interconnected aquatic cave system in the world. While this spring has an abundant amount of crystal blue underwater trails there are still many things above water that you can participate in, such as hiking, camping, biking and even paddle boarding over the shimmery blues and greens of the spring. (156, Salustri).
As you can see, Manatee springs became the spring it is today not only naturally but thanks to William Bartram it has its ironic name. William Bartram discovered manatee springs in June of 1774. Bartram was an accomplished naturalist and was the first person to use personal experiences in his writing about nature. He also wrote a book entailing all his adventures across eight southern states and most importantly the subtropical Florida. You can find information about Bartram's exploration of the early manatee springs in his book called "Travels of William Bartram". Manatee Springs has a very rich cultural history of occupation by native Americans as well even as far back as the paleo period over 10,000 years ago, (Eternal project, Gamble). This site is extremely significant not only to human wants and needs but because there is a form of life that couldn’t survive without these springs. In other words, these mammals are called “sea cows” but better known as manatees. These slow-moving mammals have inhabited manatee springs for decades and it is quite ironic due to the springs name, “manatee springs". Not only are the springs significant to these animals for the vast amount of seagrass and other vegetation but due to the temperature of the water. Despite their size, manatees have little body fat, meaning its harder for them to stay warm. They cannot tolerate temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit for long periods of time. Thus, why when the waters get too cold for them they relocate to the springs. The springs are a sanctuary for these manatees and they are being more protected than ever at manatee springs state park. William Bartram’s group was camping six miles upstream from manatee springs; They were initially heading for the store at talahasochte when Bartram noticed the spring begin to have large bubbles expand in the water every minute or so. This site was located shortly after the American revolution. Bartram being a naturalist, wanted to explore and it was more of his job and to see what he could find as well as document everything in his journals which would later become books.
“Manatee Springs State Park.” Florida's Springs - Protecting Nature's Gems, Howard T. Odum, 2019, www.floridasprings.org/visit/map/manateesprings/.
Salustri, Cathy. Backroads of Paradise. Gainesville, Fl, University Press of Florida, 2016.
Extreme exposure, Lesley Gamble, 2013, extreme-exposure.com/manatee-springs-exploration/.
Walker, Mike. “The Winter Manatee and Manatee Springs State Park.” PorterBriggs.com, 12 Dec. 2017, porterbriggs.com/the-winter-manatee-and-manatee-springs-state-park/.
“History Manatee Springs.” Springs Eternal Project, Gamble, 2016, springseternalproject.org/springs/manatee-springs/history-manatee/.