Saturday, February 28, 2009

Homosassa Springs State Park

Here's the manatee statue at the main entrance to Homosassa Springs State Park which is located about ten miles down the road from our place in Crystal River. It's a wildlife park where animals that have been injured are cared for. Except for the hippo, all of the animals at the park are native to Florida. The most interesting inhabitants are the manatees. The park has six manatees, all female. There is an underwater observation area right on top of the fresh water spring in the park. Thousands of gallons of fresh water, always at 72 degrees, emanate from the spring. Manatees cannot survive in water cooler than 62 degrees so it is a perfect habitat for them. Thousands of fish are also drawn to the warm water and it's fascinating to watch them. We first discovered the park when Dick's cousins took us there a few years ago. Now it is our "go-to" outing for visitors.

This past week my sister and brother-in-law were visiting and we took them to Homosassa Springs on one of the nicest days we've had since we arrived in Florida. We were surprised to see such a big crowd at the ticket counter. The park ranger told us it's now "high season." Usually we take the boat from the Route 19 parking area to the main entrance but this time the water level was too low and we had to take the tram instead.

In late January, we took Dick's cousins, John and Lucie. From the looks of our outfits, it was fairly warm then too. Coincidentally it was Lu the Hippo's birthday. We were there in time to sing happy birthday and watch him eat his cake. Lu was a resident of the park when the state of Florida took it over. It had previously been a privately run wildlife park with many exotic species. All of the non-native animals were relocated but a home could not be found for Lu. The governor of Florida officially made Lu a state resident and he has been a beloved feature at the park ever since.

In early January, on a rather brisk day, we took our good friends, John and Kathy. While Dick and I had been to the park before, it was Kathy's excellent research that reminded us about it. Kathy ascertained the feeding times for the manatees and for Lu. Interestingly if you arrive just in time to see Lu be fed and hear the talk about the adjacent alligators, you can walk the one mile park loop and end up at the manatee area just in time to hear the docent's talk and see them be fed. Manatees are vegetarians and, at the park, enjoy carrots, sweet potatoes and lettuce.

Here's Lu resting after enjoying his birthday cake.

The flamingos and other water birds are quite a sight.

Florida abounds with black vultures. You can see them soaring everywhere.

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