Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park–long name, lots of cool stuff to do.Including seeing wild manatees, underwater viewing, a river cruise, and a movie star hippo that has been granted honorary Floridian citizenship.
Location: 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa, FL 34446
Admission: Adults $13.00 | Children (ages 6 – 12) $5.00 | Children 5 and under FREE
Hours: 9:30am – 5:30pm, 365 days a year
Native Americans were the first to live in this area, including, later on, the Seminoles and Miccosukee. Homosassa Springs has been a tourist attraction since the 1880s and became an official Florida State Park in 1984.
The park is most famous for its manatees. Every winter, when the ocean waters get too cold, the Florida Manatees come inland for the warmer climes. One of their hangout spots is Homosassa Springs, which means park visitors get the opportunity to view hundreds of manatees floating around the shallow waters.
Here is some of what you can expect:
*Manatee season is generally considered November 15 – Mid-March. However, in my experience, best manatee viewing occurs late December through early February.
Also, during my visit, I learned something that defies what the rest of the internet says. The rest of the internet says that manatees evolved where they didn’t have any natural predators and, therefore, haven’t developed defense mechanisms. However, I observed an alligator sneak up on a manatee and watched the manatee go berserk with splashing. The manatee then sprinted away and the alligator let it alone.
Therefore, let me be the first blogger / internet person to buck conventional knowledge and hypothesize that the manatee subspecies, known as the Florida Manatee, has in fact developed defensive mechanisms for alligators, even if it is just splashing and then swimming away real fast.
The next cool thing about Homosassa Springs State Park is their Florida Walk (my term, not theirs) in which visitors can see a collection of native Florida animals, some of the them quite rare, including the Florida Panther. It is estimated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that there are only 120 to 230 “adult and subadult Florida panthers.”
Here is a Florida Panther and other Florida creatures you will see on the Florida Walk:
That is just a tiny taste of the animals you will get to see.
And, you will see one animal that is not native to Florida. Meet Lu the Hippo:
Lu is short for Lucifer but everybody calls him Lu. Anyway, Lu was born on January 26, 1960 at the San Diego Zoo, appeared in two movies–Daktari and Cowboy in Africa–and has been a mainstay at Homosassa Springs for over four decades. Lu is a vegetarian and weighs over 6,000 pounds. The life expectancy for a hippo is 40 – 50 years and Lu turns 58 in 2018. The oldest known hippo is Bertha, who lived to be 65. Lu is closing in on the title! Anway, Lu is also the only animal Florida citizen. Yup, in 1991 the governor made Lu an honorary Florida citizen in order to prevent him from being moved from his home at Homosassa Springs. Lu will now be allowed to live out his days at the spring.
Overall, Homosassa Springs State Park is definitely a fun trip to take and has a lot of unique things to see that you can’t find at a traditional Florida State Park. I hope you get a chance to experience it for yourself!
Well, thanks for reading and I hope to see you out there!
Photo Credits: Manatee by Sam Howzit | Manatee at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Florida by Sam Howzit | Manatees at Homosassa Springs by Sam Howzit | Manatee by Sam Howzit | Manatee Eating by Sam Howzit |Cabanatee by Sam Howzit | Yuma by Florida Fish and Wildlife | IMG_8694 by DGriebeling| IMG_8553 by DGriebeling | IMG_8647 by DGriebeling | IMG_9060 by DGriebeling | Black Bear by Justin Warner | IMG_8845 by DGriebeling |Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (Citrus County, FL) by Paul Clark
These photos are used under the Creative Commons 2.0 Licensing Agreement.