Friday, March 28, 2014

MANATEE SPRINGS ALL TO MYSELF

It was the nippy breezy morning after what was probably the last freeze of this winter.
The temperature overnight dipped down to 30 and that got me thinking that maybe the Manatees were up in Manatee Springs ... and that soon they would be gone into the warming Gulf waters.
So, I grabbed my snorkeling gear, my GoPro, and the Olympus Tough camera and headed out.
 

Lucky me, this is only about 10 minutes away from PFHQ.
Double lucky me ... the cold breeze had the few morning visitors all bundled up and not swimming.
Sweet!

Even the scuba divers I saw unloading weren't in the spring.
They must have chosen the nearby "Catfish Hotel" sink to dive in.

Except for 3 little boys who were being indecisive about getting in the water, I had the main spring to myself.

There was a lone manatee nearby, maybe 75 feet away, but the rules are stay 50 feet away from them in the spring, so I'm not counting him since he never shortened that distance.


I took this picture completely by accident ... one of those thumb fumbles that hits the shutter button.
I really like it.

My shadow.
You can get all the details on Manatee Springs just by going to the Florida State Parks website, but here are just a few bits ...
It's a Magnitude 1 spring with over a 100 million gallons a day flowing into the nearby Suwannee River.
The main spring "bowl" where I spent my time is around 25 feet deep ... it fluctuates.
On this day the Suwannee water level was high due to our abundant rainfall in 2014.
Tannin stained, tea-colored Suwannee water had pushed far up the short spring run, but the ground water issuing from the spring was keeping it at bay so I had pretty clear water to work with.

I love free diving ... accent on the "FREE"!
Minimal gear, just you, your lungs, and some air.
 

This is the view when you stand chest deep on the limestone rim of the main spring bowl.
 

If you follow these two logs down and keep going to the distant logs ahead in the blue haze, you are at about 25 feet and looking into the dark cavern from which all this water flows.
Notice the green, filamentous algae ... the SCOURGE of Florida springs these days.
Okay, to be fair to the primitive algaenificous slime, it's only taking advantage of increased nitrate levels in Florida's ground waters thanks to farms to close to recharge areas, golf courses, and Joe Suburbia's addiction to overfertilized bright green lawns.

This used to be waving blades of eel grass instead of algae.

When the algae fades and the eel grass returns, we'll know we've turned a corner in protecting our groundwater supply.

And, believe it or not, the water will be even clearer, yes, clearer than this ... like it used to be.

Okay ... exiting soapbox now.

One neat thing about the water level being so high is that you can snorkel into the flooded river forest of cypress trees that surrounds the spring.

Pretty, yet a little eerie at the same time.
Feels like a cave doesn't it?



I spent about 2 hours in the 72 degree water, before emerging into the nippy 57 degree air above.
Before I got out, the kids got in, so I took a shot to give the spring bowl depth some perspective.

I have some GoPro video to edit and upload of course and another post that shows a few critters that were in the spring too.

Me ... dreading getting out of the warm spring water ...

12 comments:

robin andrea said...

These are such beautiful images. What a grand journey. Can't wait to see the next batch.

Marilyn Kircus said...

Thanks for sharing a beautiful, but vulnerable habitat. I got to swim with manatees in Crystal River but the springs at the Manatee NWR were closed to us because we were there just before a 4 day cold front. So didn't get the spring experience - just got nibbled on by a baby manatee and had manatees swim up to me.

Pablo said...

Since that's a state park, I guess I'm not part owner of it.

Your experience is about as close as I'm likely to get to seeing it.

Also, I live in suburbia, but my lawn is pretty much the disgrace of the neighborhood.

threecollie said...

Wonderful, beautiful, delightful post. I love the accidental photo.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Accidents are the best photos. I like the last shot. Do I hafta? Oh how I would love to snorkel there. I'm pulling for the eelgrass, man.

Julie Zickefoose said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ericka said...

wow. really beautiful. we're supposed to get 3 more inches of snow today. :-(

Anonymous said...

Lovely underwater images, almost surreal

Sayre said...

I love your accidental shot - it looks like stained glass! And the underwater cypress knees are beautiful - Bad me thinks the algae looks pretty in that shot with the knees...

Up here in Tally, we are trying hard to save Wakulla Springs from being overrun with algae. Good strides are being made. And personally, I don't put anything on my yard. The neighbors do, so we've become a haven for the frogs!

Mark P said...

Those are really cool shots. They don't look real.

edifice rex said...

Awwww. I came here on this first day of April, sure to find a silly but mysterious post. Alas, there is no April 1st post. I guess we all get too busy at times. :)
Very cool Manatee Springs post though!!!

R.Powers said...

Annie,
I feel your pain. I ran out of time and decided no post was better than a lame post.
Already thinking about next April so I don't get caught again :)