History and Culture
For millennia, Manatee Springs and the surrounding area have provided a home site and livelihood for humans. Artifacts found in the spring and adjacent areas indicate that people have been living and raising their families here for at least 9,000 years. The arrival of Spaniards during the 1500s brought an end to a series of cultures that lived in harmony with the earth for thousands of years. In 1774, William Bartram, a naturalist, botanist and artist, traveled through the area while exploring the Southeast. Later, he wrote a book about his travels, in which he described Manatee Springs in detail and noted the presence of manatees.
The boat launch was once used by motor boats. Now that the need for springs protection is recognized, the old road has been removed and the area restored. Today the ramp is used as a canoe launch.
Changes over Time
The springs have been enjoyed by swimmers for thousands of years. Today, pollution and other human impacts have caused the springs' native submerged vegetation to be replaced by algae. Careful restoration and monitoring efforts are ongoing to protect the health of the spring.
Trees with Knees
Cypress trees have unique root structures projecting up from the ground. Today, there are still plenty of cypress trees in the area. The boardwalk allowing access to this area shows one way the park has worked to balance recreation with preservation.
For more than 30 years, prescribed fire has been an important tool in preserving and restoring the upland habitats surrounding the spring. Over the years, advancements in techniques and safety have improved the results.
Warm Water Refuge
Manatee Springs State Park has become more important than ever to manatees throughout the years. As the trend for manatees moving further north continues, the threat of stress from cold temperatures and insufficient food supply also increases. Closing the spring run to boat traffic has increased manatee populations here, allowing more park visitors to see these fascinating animals.