Visiting Florida's state parks and beyond in our Roadtrek. This is how we saw it all. Hopefully, the posts will give you some useful information. Questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Back to Florida's Manatee State Park

Returned to this nice park on the outskirts of Chiefland, FL.  There is a nicely paved 1.5 mile entrance road from the highway to the springhead where there is a day park with pavilions, picnic tables, playground, restrooms and a concession stand (good food).  The park has three gravel loops with rv/tent sites and tent only sites.  The sites have mostly 30 amp electricity, some 50 amp and some have sewage. All have water, of course.
Our site, #44, was very level and partly shaded. The closeness of neighbors varies throughout the park, generally they are not on top of each other.  There are 19 sites with sewage and there are 5 pull-throughs, two of which are paved for accessibility.  All are pretty level sand/gravel and are partially of fully shaded.

Narrow part of the loop road that is sort of an offshoot of the main loop.  There are 4 sites on this road.

Looking at the spring from the boat ramp in the day park.

The spring head.  Very little disturbance at the surface even though 35 to 150 million gallons per day bubble up from the aquifer.  Even so, the level of the spring was down this visit and maybe contributed to the fact we saw very few manatees and water birds.

Kayaks and canoes are available for rent, or bring your own. There is a good current going out a quarter mile to the Suwanee River. Remember this when returning.  These two are our site neighbors. Nice folks from Seattle.  Their kayaks have a window on the bottom to see below. Neat.  Sunroof in reverse.

Adjacent to the campground is the day park with a playground, pavilions, picnic tables, grills and a concession building with wi-fi, good food, and restrooms. There is a short boardwalk here to climb or jump into the spring head.  Divers frequent this area for ease of entry.


On the other side of the spring head from the day park is a "beach" with a sand box and some picnic tables.  There is also a sloped entrance to the spring.

Catfish Hotel.  A sink hole with caves. Excellent for experienced divers.  Not so pretty this time of the year. When we here last it was crystal clear and deep aqua in color.  No diving here this week.  All divers headed to the spring head.

Starting at the boat ramp a boardwalk parallels the spring to the Suwanee River. 

One can observe the marsh on one side...

...and the spring on the other.  Observers on one of 4 observation decks along the boardwalk and a couple of kayakers heading to the river.

At the end of the boardwalk is an observation deck and boat dock.  Hour and half tours are available at the concession stand.

On one visit to the boat dock these five dogs took the tour.  They were excited. You could hear them barking all the way down the boardwalk and pulling on their leashes.  One lady said they love the boat ride.

It was at the river's edge we saw the manatees. But, only about a half dozen or so.

Also, spotted a few Pied-Billed Grebes....

...and a few Double Breasted Cormorants.
A Cormorant rests on a buoy.

 And many Turkey and Black Vultures hang out in the trees across from the observation deck at river's edge.

There are 8.5 miles of trails in the park. All are hike and bike and take you through a variety of different plant communities.  All are pretty easy trails and you can control the length of your hike by using the map provided at the ranger station.  Markers along the main trail provides information about the flora along the way.
Typical trail.  Little elevation changes. Some have roots, some not.  Evidence of a  recent prescribed burn on the left.
This trail leads to two youth camps.

 Makeshift trail marker?  Saw more than one on this trail.

This trail head leads to all the other trails.  Most are loops with a few non-loop trails. And, about a half dozen ponds along the way.
The Sink Trail is a loop through a sink hole area.  Most are dry.


 We found one with a trace of moisture.  They are about 10-12 feet deep, 20-40 foot long.

Things we saw along the way:

Tall Pine Barron Milkweed.  Or, a weed. A lot of them along the boardwalk in the marsh.

Turkey Vulture.

Hmm, squirrel.  Got food?

Moss laden rock in the spring. The low level of the spring allowed us to see things we haven't seen on other visits.

Only a few small leaves left on the tree.

This park has a large number of Cardinals.

And deer galore.  Individual deer or small groups can be seen in the campsite or along the trails.

Tree Swallow

Snowy Egret

Red-shouldered Hawk.  Always flying around and squeeing.  Letting all know this was his territory.


Red Bellied Woodpecker (with nut)

"Bobtail" anole.  Looks kinda nasty on the end. Hope it comes back.

Low water level reveals some interesting root systems.

 Some signs to heed:

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