Monday, February 09, 2009

Chassahowitzka Manatee Kayak Trip

"My, they are frisky today" she said as she dabbled her fingers in the water. The young manatee was gently nibbling her digits as she talked to me.

"Just wiggle your fingers like this..." she demonstrated ... " and they will come up to you."

Floating ten feet away, I dabbled, I wiggled ... nothing ... although they were all around me, nobody was coming up for a finger munch. A sirenia snuggle seemed unlikely for me even though the youngster next to her boat was practically devouring her hand.

She was pretty cute.

Her husband/boyfriend was in a nearby kayak yakking on the cellphone about the poor economic situation ... his back to both his partner and the frisky manatee.

"Oh, look, he wants his bellyrubbed." She gave him a gentle pat as the young manatee rolled next to her kayak.

Apparently, I had stumbled upon some sort of manatee whisperer ... this woman in the blue kayak seemed to have a strange affinity for the gentle beasts.

We were sitting not 10 meters from the Chasshowitzka River boat ramp in clear water flowing from several nearby springs. The manatees were up in the spring basking in the 72 degree water after a week of record setting cold.

I had barely slid my kayak into the river when a manatee surfaced just off my bow.

So, while I was not actually munched upon by a manatee, I did have wonderful close up views of their antics as they fed and cruised about the spring.

A manatee cruises deep below my kayak.

Another passes just beneath me.

Above, three in one shot ... I believe there were 4 in the spring area while I was there. I spent a lot of time just floating about, watching and photographing them.

The Chassahowitzka is fed by a bunch of springs that gush warm fresh water from the Floridan aquifer. It flows through one of our older National Wildlife Refuges on it's way to the Gulf of Florida and is wonderfully clear.

The clarity and shallowness makes for great fish watching too. After I left the manatees, I paddled upstream a little and then down river for the rest of the day. I saw more saltwater fish species than fresh.

My list ... mullet, mangrove snapper, sheepshead, pinfish, pigfish, needlefish, redfish, blue know ... the euryhaline gang.

It was a beautiful day and I even had to shed the long sleeved camo T-shirt I started the day wearing.
This time of year you can be freezing in the morning and hot in the afternoon. In fact, by late afternoon when I finally pulled myself away from the river, the long sleeve shirt was a welcome friend again.

That's how winter goes here in Pure Florida.
(I did finally make it to Home Depot, but they didn't have what I needed ... oh darn. I guess it was a wasted trip ... heehee)


tsiya said...

I used to love those cold mornings, I'd hit the trail well before Sunrise and be sitting against a big tree at first light. I'd usually fall asleep in the Sun before noontime.

Dr. Know said...

Cool, I haven't seen a manatee in a couple of years.

She was pretty cute
And you're referring to the Manatee or the young lady?

yakking on the cellphone about the poor economic situation ... his back to
A cardinal sin. You should see what happens around here when someone pulls out the evil, yet ubiquitous cell-phone at dinner.

Ooh, a new word for our brackish friends.

[made] it to Home Depot, but they didn't have what I needed
And just as well, Marcus doesn't deserve our money.

All and all, I'd say you spent your time in a much more constructive manner.

Dani said...

What a nice way to spend an afternoon! Much better than hanging out at the depot.

threecollie said...

Man, I just love the way you waste time. lol...thank you for sharing the magic of your afternoon. The water even without manatees, would be beautiful to see. With them, well, wow, just wow!

Sayre said...

Did you just HAPPEN to have your kayak with you for a trip to Home Depot??? That is what I call planning ahead!

I love manatees. They come hang out in the Wakulla River sometimes.

Sandcastle Momma said...

Manatee are absolutely magical. There's just something so peaceful about them.
We aren't going to be able to make our yearly pilgrimage to Homosassa to swim with them this year so your pictures are wonderful to see.
Hopefully we'll get back down there next year.

SwampAngel65 said...

Manatees are such a joy to watch. When I worked at a marina, we had them in the channel and basin all the time. Mating season is the funniest thing to behold...the splashing and noises are a trip! Such gentle creatures...

Deb said...

It boggles my mind how anyone could be out in the midst of something truly wonderful, and be talking on a cell phone, totally oblivious. He needs to go to Pure Florida boot camp for a few days! :)

h said...

"Gulf of Florida"? Is this related to your campaign to get us a new State Bird?

robin andrea said...

Beautiful manatees! How lucky you have such a great diversity of wildlife there. You're making me fall in love with Florida.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a near-perfect day. I see manatees almost every summer at Sanibel Island. They hang out in the marinas... probably near a fresh-water hose.

cinbad122 said...

It's too bad your kayak is only built for one!

R.Powers said...

I definitely enjoy our winter. It'll be hot and sultry soon enough.

The lady.

True, although I have been known to spend hours in there!

Magic just about describes manatee moments.

Doesn't everybody carry one?

Sandcastle Momma,
I was very tempted to go over the side, but I had to go to the store afterwards!

I've seen that too. They can really go when they want to!

LOL! It was odd to me too!

I don't see why Mexico gets it. I'm looking at the map and it could easily be the Gulf of Florida.

Go ahead, I did a long time ago!

And it's always a thrill isn't it?

I hear ya ... definitely need another one!

Anonymous said...

Mmmmm, manatee steaks. A little greasy, but good if you cook them slow.

Caroline said...

Loved the manatees...our big grazers are bison around here! Not the mermaids.

Thanks for my Science "Word of the Week", I had to look up euryhaline. My science teacher friend will love it, I gave him a snake-y one this week. Doesn't like snake-y creatures so much.

Caroline in SD

Thunder said...

Cool shots of the manatees!
29days and a wake-up to go!

Unknown said...

They are giants, and that water is crystal clear. That's good living up in Pure Florida country!

Alan said...

Just have to go back this weekend. :)

tsiya said...

Looked at the pics again, goodness, gracious, FC, you have some of the oogliest toes I've ever seen!

Doug Taron said...

What an amazing experience and photos. Is this your best post ever? Maybe...

R.Powers said...

Yes, I agree. Need to sharpen the prop again.

You might try stenohaline and neuston too.

Cool! You will have to be reeducated of course. We have camps for that.

Not too shabby actually.

Good idea!

Those are fingers bent over the gunwale of the kayak!

I hope it's not my best writing!!
Cool pics tho!

Julie Zickefoose said...

WOW!! I love this! But I sure hope that guy doesn't accidentally drop his cell phone in the spring--a manatee might choke on it.
THanks for this lovely side trip. I have been worrying about the 'tees in the freeze...

Oh, and Dr. Know has been visiting my blog, pesterin' me. He thinks you and I are reading off the same page.

Dr. Know said...

pesterin' me ?!

JZ, I hope you don't consider my visit in that fashion; I'm crushed.

Anonymous said...

How lovely, and enchanting. I think you are the manatee whisper, along with the eagle charmer.

And, yes, I am jealous. The only thing I see on my way to Home Depot is traffic.