Over on the west coast of Central Florida lies the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. Part of the 174 Florida State Parks, this attraction was once one of the many roadside attractions that were on US Hwy 19 down the coast, along with nearby Crystal River and Weeki Wachee Springs. Homosassa River is a constant home to 3 manatees and visited during winter months or heavy storms in the Gulf of Mexico by other wild manatees.
We parked at the main entrance and took the tram to get back to the main park area. You purchase your tickets there ($13.00 for adults and $5 for anyone 6 years old through 12). After departing from the ticket area/concession stand/gift shop building, you are met with a delightful fountain and an option to head towards the manatees or the zoo section. We opted for manatees.
We lucked into a feeding show for the manatees, who slowly travel down the river when they hear the splash of the romaine lettuce hit the crystal clear waters.
While they are huge, manatees are gentle giants and don’t even get fussy when little fish friends decided to snack on their lunch.
The manatees who live year round in the Homosassa Springs park are too injured to fend for themselves in the wild. While they have been taken off the endangered species list, manatees are still in danger from the many watersports enthusiasts and their propellered watercraft.
Of course, the Momma-tee has no fear of such problems.
On the other side of the ‘Fishbowl’ is the underwater platform. There was some cloudiness to the glass (likely due to humidity from above mixing with the cool temperatures below), but this guy was nice enough to peek in the windows at the strange animals lurking in his world.
From above, its easy to see just how clear these waters are.
We walked around for a bit more, checking out the other animals native to Florida and Lu, the hippo, who didn’t opt to come out of the water on this typical Florida summer day. There were plenty of manatee statues to be found around the park, but this guy looked like he was having the most fun.
To go back to where we parked Red Rover, we decided to take the boat back.
We had our choice of seats, as you can see. The boats can hold up to 45 adults at a time. Then, we were off down Pepper Creek, a 1.2 mile trek back to the main gate.
We came upon another boat headed our way and it made us happy we were headed downstream.
We encountered some of Florida’s wildlife, seeing an alligator hanging out in the shade up on the creek bank and then this big guy, who perhaps was dreaming he was flying?
Before the park was purchased by the state of Florida, it was privately owned and used to be attached by a bridge to the hotel next door.
Less than an hour outside of Dunnellon and close to many other attractions, Homosassa Springs State Park is worth a visit. A great place for young and old.