This past January I was able to take my family out on the Weeki Wachee River. Some of you might have heard of the mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, the headsprings to the river. Shown here is the federally endangered Florida manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, known for their slow-moving and gentle nature (they look just like baked potatoes to me). They take up Florida’s inner coastal waters during the winter time because they are easily cold-stressed but tolerate a range of salinities. As a child, I always visited Snooty the manatee at the South Florida Museum, who is currently the world’s oldest living manatee at 67 years old.
I am always happy to go back to Florida and see manatees. Blue Springs State Park and Crystal River are other hotspots they like to frequent and recommend going to. The width of the river is quite narrow and was not thrilled to see boats allowed on the waterway, considering watercraft collisions are the greatest known cause of mutilations and mortality.
Stand up paddle boarding (SUP Weeki) has become one of my favorite things to do on vacation and could probably spend all day, everyday, on the water. Pictured above is me still in the canal but once you hit the river, the water clarity is amazing (pictures of course don’t do it justice). The focus of this paddle was to Hospital Hole, a local legend where fish and manatees come to heal themselves with the strong presence of minerals, in particular sulfur, found there. It is also a popular dive spot.
I went equipped with my GoPRO, neoprene leggings, rash guard, and snorkel gear into the 72 degrees year-round temp to the famous hole. We had a fantastic private show from at least 12 manatees, of course only letting them approach if they wanted. Earth Day is coming up- maybe consider adopting a manatee through the Save the Manatee Club like I did last year. Currently, we are in a 90-day comment period (ends April 7th, 2016) to help the Fish and Wildlife Service reach a final decision on the proposal for the Florida manatee to be downgraded from “endangered” to “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Despite their population increase in recent years, the most recent management plan was last published in 2007 and should be re-evaluated.