As previously mentioned, I spent Saturday night camping at Manatee Springs State Park in Florida with a couple coworkers, in hopes of finally seeing these gentle aquatic mammals in their natural habitiat. (The Columbus Zoo in Ohio has a fantastic manatee exhibit, so I’ve seen them in captivity before, but it’s not the same.)
The eponymous spring bubbles with water at a constant seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit year round, so it’s a popular hangout for manatees in winter when the temperature of the surrounding rivers drops. Unfortunately, in the time we were there we saw no sign of any manatees – the weather had been quite warm lately, despite the fact that the park says their “manatee season” lasts until the end of March, so perhaps they’d already moved on.
Manatees or no manatees, we were determined to enjoy ourselves. The crystal clear water of the spring (and the Suwanee River, which it runs into a short way away) meant for great turtle- and fish-watching, and we even saw what we were pretty sure was an otter splashing around. An armadillo came blundering into our campsite after dark (if you’ve ever run into an armadillo in the wild, you know that they are NOISY buggers) and the vultures roosting all around the dock were very picturesque in the morning mist.
In a way, part of me is glad that we didn’t see any manatees after all. If we had simply driven up, parked our car, walked over to the spring, and there they’d been, it would have reduced them to a tourist attraction. It would have robbed them of some the otherness they possess as wild creatures. I still hope I see one someday, and in ideal world it will happen completely unexpectedly and serendipitously.
Okay, now to get to work on putting together Festival of the Trees. Look for it sometime in the next couple days… I still have a lot of submissions to go through.