Manatee Springs Update

Discussion in 'Florida' started by scubacamper, Apr 4, 2013.

  1. scubacamper

    scubacamper Well-Known Member

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    A few of us from NASJAX Scuba Club are heading down next weekend to do a camp n dive trip with several more of our members coming to dive for the day and enjoy lunch/dinner together. Nice to hear many of you have been there at least once.
     
  2. Sharon

    Sharon Dover, FL

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    I have lived in Florida 46 years and only been there one time, about 1.5 years ago. I would love to go camping there but its a 3 hour drive for us so we dont get that way often.

    Sharon
     
  3. dmonette

    dmonette Member

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    Great park, had a good time. It is out of the way (farm land). Took us 6 hours from Atlanta, easy drive.

    10 miles of super walmart, winn-dixie, CVS,... . There is a fresh fruit/veggies stand next to Walmart and their prices are great so is the quality.

    Barely have cell service which is also a plus (for us anyway). They have free WiFi next to the boardwalk.

    Firewood can be purchased onsite for $6. There is a man selling firewood on the way to the campground (follow the signs). You pick your own (choose Oak, Hickory, etc..) and put money in the box. I actually met with him, great guy with good stories.

    We were in the Hickory loop which seemed to be a lot quieter than the other ones (no giant RVs, mostly tents, popups and smaller RVs). In addition to the Hickory loop, sites 69-74 looked great.

    Bathrooms were good. We've seen better and we've seen a lot worst.

    There is plenty of wildlife around. Armadillos, raccoons, woodpeckers, lots of deers. We did see a couple of manatees, pretty cool. I recommend water googles and under water camera. You can swim there too, water is nice, there are some water snakes but they don't bother saying hello.

    There are some hiking trails with information placards about trees, animals.

    We experienced a Florida rain storm which wasn't pretty so we drove to Gainesville checked out University of Florida Natural History Museum (free).

    Def planning on going back.
     
  4. scubacamper

    scubacamper Well-Known Member

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    Glad you had a good time...were you there this past weekend? We were the first spot inside the Magnolia loop...on the left going down into the park. The Magnolia loop was mostly tents including 2 of our group. There was one knucklehead who was gunning his truck about 0100 but it didn't last long as I think either he got sober real fast or the night ranger had words with him.

    My group liked it so much they want me to plan another trip like this to a different SP whether they dive or not.
     
  5. mamasnaper

    mamasnaper New Member

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    We love Manatee Springs! We went in May 2013 for a long weekend. It was a true Florida feel. We lucked out and a Manatee had just given birth in the spring area and we were able to see mama and calf all weekend hanging out. Glad to hear bathrooms were updated. When we went they were okay, but could have used some TLC. Yes lots of deer there and unfortunately my son and I came home with a few ticks on us. We would love to go back again. It is a drive for us so it has to be atleast a 4 day trip.
     
  6. dmonette

    dmonette Member

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    we were there from 03/27 till 04/01 at Hick 99.
    we're planning on going back in late october.



     
  7. scubacamper

    scubacamper Well-Known Member

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    Angrybeaver,

    We were going to head down over Labor Day but my DW has made other plans but October may work for us as well; when were you thinking? I have to work around my work schedule (I'm a teacher) and my DD's school schedule but it's workable.
     
  8. dmonette

    dmonette Member

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    Not sure yet, schedule for work is never solid. I had a trip to San Fran planned for late September and that will most likely shift to mid October pushing the Houston trip to the last of October (nasa launch control center, can't pass that one, too exciting). November sounds safer for us.
     
  9. Chaaalie

    Chaaalie Member

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    Here's an update/review for everyone ... we were there a few weeks ago (Jan 13-15, 2017) as a "shakedown trip" to test a few things (how do the 2 rescued labs handle camping? longer car rides? Is this a site we want to add to the list of places to go?) ...

    As a shakedown trip (a few hours away) in prep for a Spring Break trip 2x as far it was great -- and our expectations were low (We're Floridians, we ain't goin' in the water in January anyway!) But the park is one we will definitely visit again. Very nice, especially for family camping.

    Staff is awesome ... as several have said, TONS of wildlife (and the deer are very curious) ... we didn't see any raccoons, nor did we have any tick issues we have seen reported on some reviews. Other wildlife seen: manatees (at the junction of the springs and Suwannee), a gator (up the river), armadillos, opossum, lots and lots of deer, turtles, and lots and lots of deer, black & turkey vultures, red shouldered hawks, and lots of deer (yes, it seemed like there were almost more deer than trees at times.)

    We were on the Hickory loop -- which is smaller and quieter side and a little bit more primitive (the other loop has many paved pads and gravel drives in sites) -- the bathroom on the Hickory side is also a bit dated (we were told that the Hickory loop was set to be renovated similar to the other side soon.)

    My only real concern was residual damage from the summer storm season(s?) in the canopy -- on the Hickory side there were several fallen trees and more concerning there were also some very damaged dead wood still standing (including one that chased me to set up on the very front edge of our site) ... behind the adjoining siite there was even a very large "widow maker" (a very large dead bough from a fallen tree precariously balanced upon another branch about 40' up in another tree.) In all seriousness, had there been any sign of wind while we were there, I'd have disconnected and boondocked in a space between some of the other sites. (I did point these out to a ranger who at least feigned concern ... but if any of the pices I'm talking about fell on an RV it would do serious damage -- and it could easily kill someone if they fell on tents or a pop-up.) So definitely look overhead when you get to your site ...

    The camp store is really more of just a rental stand for boats and some swim eqipment rather than a typical camp store (iirc they had maybe 10 items not related to the water rentals ... toothpaste, ibuprofen etc.) There are remnants of an old general store just beyond the gate, but if you need supplies once you get here, you're probably headed back into town (9 miles away.)

    The BBQ shack (at the camp store by the springs) is solid. I fancy myself a BBQ snob, and I was a little worried when I saw they used off-the-shelf sauce (Sweet Baby Rays) and there are signs that much of their stock comes from Sam's ... so I was worried that reviews I had read were maybe a bit inflated ... but trust me: Dude knows how to use a smoker. Seriously solid ribs and pulled pork were the stars of the show ... if you are in Chiefland, or even just passing through (and not in the mood for Burger House) this BBQ is legit and worth the trip. (They have slaw, beans, ice cream, a wide variety of drinks as well, but the meats are clearly the featured act.) Note: they shut down kinda early, so if you're planning dinner, you may want to check in earlier and see how late they'll be serving.

    We'll definitely be back ... and bring all the bikes and kayaks for the kids ... if you have a telescope, bring it -- as it is one of the darkest night skies you will find in Florida (man, there were millions of stars! Seemed like one for every deer we saw!)

    The area is beautiful, and is just north of where Florida starts to get much more temperate and tropical. There are lots of natural features (sinkholes, "indian wells" which are vents/skylights to the underground caverns that attract many divers.) saw some exposed (small, shallow) limestone crops, but the terrain makes it apparent that limestone is near the surface in many places (while limestone is the closest thing Florida has to bedrock, in most of the state it is well below the surface.) The terrain and canopy are very different than what you will find just an hour to the south (I.e. There are a lot of hickory and short-needle pines that are simply not seen down the peninsula.)

    Not the most developed of Florida's state parks, and honestly it's easy to overlook (I have camped all over Florida, starting as a Boy Scout decades ago ... and had never even heard of this park.) Now that I have been here, these "slights" are actually now benefits ... while most of the sites were full the weekend we were there, it was far from crowded.
     
  10. Orchid

    Orchid Sharp Shootin' Grandma

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    We have reservations for 5 nights in March. Looking forward to it.
     
  11. scubacamper

    scubacamper Well-Known Member

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    We love it because when we go we often take the scuba gear with us. Orchid we also will be there during Spring Break March 19-23 (5 Days also). The other reason we like it is because there is plenty for the DD's to do both here and up at Fanning Springs (which is run by the same Rangers as Manatee).

    The Bar-B-Q place is wonderful and Wal-Mart is just up the road with Target down the road. My DW only criticism is no Starbucks anywhere in the area, oh well, she survives.
     
  12. Chaaalie

    Chaaalie Member

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    Was initially reluctant to revive a discussion that had been dormant for more than a year ... seeing two people already chime in makes me glad I did.

    I'd love to see you guys assess the park when you return (and hopefully report the standing dead trees in Hickory site 67 (and the widow maker behind 68) have been dealt with.

    I plan to do similar after each trip I make as a sort of diary/log that has the additional benefit of possibly helping others that pass through later.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  13. scubacamper

    scubacamper Well-Known Member

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    I'll be happy to do so. Confirmed last night that friends are joining us for at least part of the stay if not all of it.
     
  14. Fasttimes7

    Fasttimes7 Member

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    We gave it a try last year Feb and enjoyed it very much. It is one of the few places here in FL where you are allowed to swim with the manatees. When we were there we had manatees up in the spring every day and we just had to swim with them. Like Chaaalie, typically you would not get me in water below 80 degrees, but it was great. The water temps were probably around 72-70, but with the outside temps in the low 60s it felt like a bath tub. Seeing the manatees up close was amazing. There were some idiots touching them which is a no no, but otherwise everyone was respectful and gave them their distance.

    The spring area is nice. Only bummer for us is we typically visit FL springs in the spring or summer and usually the trees are nice and green and you have this turquoise clear water spring setting in it looking beautiful. But in this case, being winter everything was brown so it was kind of dull looking I guess I would say. I would imagine in the summer or spring it would be nice and green as well, but we were there for the manatees and winter is the time for them.

    And yes, as someone who takes pride in his smoking skills at home I can attest to the bbq stand as being on point. I had to hit it twice before leaving it was soo good. Ribs and pulled pork were outstanding.

    I was in the older campsite area as well, and the newer sites did look nicer. My only complaint was not having much in the way of privacy foliage between me and my neighbor facing my door. But it was fine.

    Plenty of nice trails to walk and bike, canoeing on the river, great bbq, and swimming with manatees you can't go wrong.
     
  15. whitecastleman

    whitecastleman Member

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    I agree- this park is a gem. I was there over the Christmas holiday and saw several manatees. Did anyone notice the orange tree full of fruit near the main parking area?
     
  16. scubacamper

    scubacamper Well-Known Member

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    There are areas here in the state that have wild citrus growing due to other animals, including humans, transporting the seeds around the state. For the tourists out there, it takes a little cool snap for the citrus to ripen to the color we normally know it as...yellow lemons, etc. I learned this after living here for over a decade and then bought a home with both lemon and orange trees in the yard.
     
  17. smoothiepimp

    smoothiepimp New Member

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    We went in December before we bought a pup. It's a beautiful campground and tons of trees and shade. we tent camped and it got down to 46 degrees and was a little chilly but when we opened the tent flap, we forgot all about that because there were 11 deer in our camp spot. It was crazy and awesome! That night we had a little armadillo running around the camp, going between our feet and going from camp to camp. There is lots of wildlife and the campground is clean. We took a boat up the swannee river and back to the spring then walked the trails.

    It was a great weekend trip and we are going to book the same spot at the same weekend this year. The only downside was the area had no cell service at all until about 2 miles from the park.
     
  18. Orchid

    Orchid Sharp Shootin' Grandma

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    We'll be there 14 - 19th with the kids and grandchildren. Can't wait! [CP]
     
  19. nhlakes

    nhlakes Well-Known Member

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    We were there a couple of weeks ago during our maiden voyage down the east coast with our new Aliner. Great park. Most of the Manatee were hanging out by the river and not in the shallow water by the primary viewing platform. All the dark long things in the water are manatee. Much better in person. :) They do rise but I didn't get any great pics of them rising.

    [​IMG]
     

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