springs, manatees and traveling with my son
Cedar Key, FL
Florida is a boater’s haven as confirmed by its over 950,000 registered boats. Many Loopers stay over a month or more in southern Florida and the Keys before making their way north along the Atlantic ICW. But not many explore the wonderful small towns along the ‘Bend’ (Steinhatchee, Suwanee, Cedar Key) much less another Florida wonder, its natural springs. These areas are not exactly social meccas and most Looper boats are too big to get in and out of them comfortably. But they fit L.T. and me just fine.
I had explored Manatee Springs in Manatee Springs State Park on the Suwanee River in early February. It’s a ‘First Magnitude’ spring meaning more than 64.6 million gallons per day – 100 cfs for my western friends.
My son Tommy (the T in L.T.) flew into Jacksonville in late March to join me for six days over spring break. I chose an up and back trip on the St. John’s River to be sure I could get him back to school on time. A local boater suggested Salt Spring as a destination/turn around point, about 80 miles upriver to Lake George and then 4 miles up Salt Springs Creek to the spring.
Tommy, L.T. and I held our breath as we bumped across the sandbar to get into the creek and then picked our way in 2 to 8 feet of water to the spring. It was well worth the effort as a pod of manatee came to check us out as soon as we dropped anchor. They seemed most curious about L.T.’s anchor line.
Salt Spring is just short of First Magnitude status at an average 52 million gallon daily discharge. It provides comfortable 74 degree water for the wintering manatees, if a bit chilly for Tommy and me. It’s located in the Ocala National Forest which contains five other of Florida’s 700 or so natural springs.
Salt SpringsSalt Springs Recreation Area, Ocala National Forest
Great campground and swimming area.
I'm sure it's a lot more crowded in the summer.
March 27, 2019
Tom also wanted to dip his toes in the Atlantic and I wanted him to get a feel for the ICW, so we hustled to Amelia Island for his last night. It was tough to hand him over to Mr. Uber in the morning and be on my own again.