Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a rehabilitation center for injured and orphaned West Indian manatees until they are returned to the wild. The park's centerpiece is a first-magnitude freshwater spring, which produces millions of gallons of crystal-clear water each hour with the spring outflow creating the Homosassa River. Visitors a given a rare opportunity to observe Florida's native wildlife in a natural setting and can stroll along the paved trails and boardwalks to see manatees and alligators, black bear and bobcats, and tiny Key deer and otters at close range. Many birds species, from colorful wood ducks and roseate spoonbills to majestic birds of prey and whooping cranes, also inhabit the park.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park has been a tourist attraction since the early 1900s, when trains stopped to let passengers rest at the spring. The train track ran on what is now Fishbowl Drive, which runs through the park. While passengers rested, fish, crabs, cedar and spring water were loaded on the train. The 50-acre site and surrounding 100 acres was purchased in the 1940s and operated as a small attraction. In 1964, the Norris Development Company bought the property and expanded and promoted Homosassa Springs as 'Nature's Own Attraction.' In the park's early days as Homosassa Springs Attraction, the emphasis was on entertainment. At Alligator Shows at Gator Lagoon, alligators jumped out of the water for fish and chicken. The attraction was home to exotic animals and native wildlife. From 1978 to 1984, the land exchanged hands under several private ownerships. In December 1984, the Citrus County Commission purchased the attraction to protect it as an environmentally sensitive area. Today, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is owned by the state of Florida.
Ivan Tors Animal Actors housed their trained animals at Homosassa Springs Attraction when the animals were not appearing in movies and television shows. One of the most popular was Buck, a black bear who was a stand-in for Gentle Ben in the television series. Modern thinking about captive wildlife has influenced how the park is now managed. Both visitor safety and animal welfare are of utmost importance at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
The hippopotamus named Lucifer first came to the Homosassa Springs Attraction in 1964 as part of Ivan Tors Animal Actors. Lucifer, or Lu for short, is now one of the park's longest residents. He celebrated his 49th birthday in 2009.
Photographer Bob Moreland won a newspaper Photo of the Year Award for snapping this photo of an alligator with the No Swimming sign that was posted in Gator Lagoon at Homosassa Springs Attraction.