Thursday, January 24, 2013

A short side trip to Manatee Park

January 23, 2013
North Fort Myers
Seminole Campground

Last year when we were in this park, I kept hearing about people going to see the Manatees at the local power plant—especially when there was a “cold front” in the area.  I didn't realize that there was an actual park next to the power plant specifically created for viewing and learning about this endangered species. Manatee Park also happens to be less than five miles from us, so it makes a perfect afternoon adventure. 

We happened to have a bit of a cold spell here with temps at night in the low 50s and daytime highs in the low 70s (sorry to all those up north braving below freezing temps). I learned that the manatees head to the warm waters in the power plant discharge canal when the water temperature in the Gulf and rivers drops below 68 degrees. There is no charge for visiting this pretty little 17 acre park that overlooks not only the power plant canal, but there is also a boardwalk that leads to a viewing area on the Orange River. Lee County Parks and Rec has done a great job of creating native plant habitats and a variety of access points for watching the manatees in this natural sanctuary.

Even though manatees are often called “sea cows” their closet relative is actually an elephant.  They are mainly herbivores spending most of their day eating 5-10% of their 800-1000 lbs. of body weight. Because they are warm-blooded mammals, they need to come up for air and do so every 4-5 minutes. When they sleep on the bottom, they only have to come up for air every 20 minutes or so. The big challenge in trying to get a good photo of them is to predict when they are going to come up for a short breath at the surface. I have a new camera and need to learn how to increase the shutter speed as I missed most of the great shots!

Someone at the park told me there are places about four hours north of here in Crystal River where you can actually swim with the manatees. I inadvertently did so years ago when I was snorkeling near the mangroves in the Keys. Boy did that scare me when a half ton manatee rolled over next to me.  Vic and I also had a surprise in our kayaks coming in to the boat launch area at Sombrero Beach in the Keys. We were gliding right over a small herd of manatees. The sad thing is that even though they are a protected species, their number one enemy is boats—obviously ones with motors.  We must have seen somewhere between thirty and fifty manatees at this park—pretty amazing considering there are only about 2000 in all of Florida. 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is a canoe and kayak launch area in Manatee Park that leads down the Orange River. They rent kayaks there, but you can launch your own boats too. There are alligators on the river as well as lots of other wildlife, so it looks like it would be a great place to explore by kayak. stay tuned for some kayaking adventures. . . .

1 comment:

  1. Most definitely going on the Pinterest board to remind myself of this place. It sounds like I'd better take my SLR with me when I visit so that I am not frustrated by shutter lag.


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