11650 NW 115 St.
Chiefland, FL 32626
Where is Manatee Springs State Park
Manatee Springs is a Florida US State Park located six miles west of Chiefland, Florida, on SR 320 and just off US 19, along the Suwannee River. Within only an hour and 15-minute drive from the larger city of Gainesville, Florida, Manatee Springs is a relaxing getaway where locals and visitors alike can enjoy the swampy, shady and unique ecosystem of western Florida. Are you hoping to experience a bit of sandy, beach life to go with your state park adventure? Horseshoe Beach Park is only an hour away!
How Big Is Manatee Springs State Park
The highlight of this 2,075-acre park is Manatee Spring itself. As a first-magnitude spring flowing from the Suwannee River, it produces 81,280 gallons of crystal-clear water every minute. That is 117 million gallons daily. An 800-foot boardwalk next to the spring offers a view of the unique river swamp and provides a great place to fish for the afternoon. Manatee Springs is also known as being North America’s Longest Submerged Cave System, attracting cave divers from all over the world who come to explore.
Manatee Springs State Park Weather
Open year-round, Manatee Springs is a unique Florida treasure. The majestic cypress forest and spring offers refuge to a variety of fish, reptiles, mammals, birds and invertebrates. Hot, humid summers and warm, mild winters is what you will experience when visiting the park. From November to April, manatees make home here in the life-giving warm waters because the Suwannee River and Gulf of Mexico waters cool. The spring also attracts a large amount of American black vultures. They remain throughout the winter and provide a spectacle, with moss-draped cypress trees surrounded by large, black birds. During the summer months, huge prehistoric-looking Gulf sturgeon can be seen leaping out of the river. No matter the season or weather, can view abundant wildlife inside this unique Florida ecosystem.
When did Manatee Springs Become a State Park
Manatee Springs was designated a U.S. National Landmark in 1971, but artifacts have been found suggesting people have been living in the area for at least 9,000 years. In 1774, naturalist William Bartram wrote a book about his travels and named the area Manatee Springs because of the presence of manatees that he discovered living in its waters.
Things to Do at Manatee Springs State Park
Leave the shore behind and come explore the acres of Florida spring water and swamp land. This family getaway and manatee hideout is a great place to discover the true Florida inland. Our State Park Visitors Guide lists the most notable and popular adventures found in the park below:
With over 8.5 miles of wooded, off-road trails to explore, Manatee Springs is a great location for a leisurely nature walk or a day spent mountain biking through the Florida outdoors. The trail system connects to the 32-mile Nature Coast State Trail for all the adventure your heart desires.
Boating, kayaking and paddle boarding are popular activities to enjoy in the springs area. Bring your own or rent all of these from the Anderson’s Outdoor Adventure building on site. Visitors can even take a pontoon boat tour led by locals.
Primitive and RV camping is readily available at Manatee Springs State Park. The park features 80 campsites, hot shower restrooms, ADA accessible facilities, drinking water and electric/sewer hookups. Make sure to secure your reservations in advance. Pets are allowed and must remain on-leash.
Visitors are encouraged to fish from the boardwalk that leads to the spring, as well as in the Suwannee River. A Florida fishing license is required, and small fishing boats may be rented from Anderson’s Outdoor Adventures. Largemouth bass, catfish and mullet are plentiful in the waters inside of the park.
Pack a picnic and spend the day with family and friends. Picnic tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the park. Bar-b-que from Anderson’s Outdoor Rentals is another great way to enjoy a yummy afternoon, outdoor meal.
The park is a popular place for open water and cavern diving. All divers must have proper certifications and follow the safety rules. Open water diving is allowed at the Main Spring and Catfish Hotel. Cavern Diving is allowed in Catfish hotel. A minimum distance of 50 feet between divers and manatees must be maintained at all times.
Make sure to bring your bathing suit and towel. Swimming and snorkeling activities can be enjoyed in the natural feature of this gorgeous and unique first-magnitude spring. Currents can be swift, so use caution. Visitors may also rent snorkeling equipment at Anderson’s Outdoor Adventure building on site.
When to go to Manatee Springs State Park
Manatee Springs is open daily and year-round from 8am until sundown for your enjoyment. Campers may stay on site 24 hours. There is a minimal entry fee of $6 per vehicle. The boardwalk to the crystal spring waters is always open and available for exploration. Depending upon the time of year, visitors can be entertained by programs such as nature walks, discovery wagon tours and ranger talks that are offered to educate the public about the resources found inside Manatee Springs. Additional special events include Treasure Hunts on Memorial and Labor Days, "Ol Fashioned River Party" in April, and the "Manatee Springs Christmas Festival" in December. Any time of year is a great time to adventure this Florida gem, but if you really want to see the manatee, make sure to visit November to April.
Must-Haves to Bring to Manatee Springs State Park
Come prepared for the outdoors and the humid temperatures at Manatee Springs State Park. List of Parks doesn't want you to forget to carry the following items:
Always pack a protein bar or your favorite snack and water for hiking the trails or floating the river. Concessions are available but bringing additional goodies for your day at the park is also encouraged. Picnic sites are available with grills and tables.
Depending upon your plans for the day, you will need to consider bringing the correct outdoor gear so your day can be its best. Hiking shoes, bug spray, sunglasses, sunscreen and boating/fishing, scuba and snorkeling gear are all necessities you don’t want to leave behind.
Bring along some extra money for rental fees. You can rent a pontoon boat, paddle board, kayak or fishing gear on site, just to name a few options. Visit Anderson’s Outdoor Adventures upon arrival and they will provide you everything you need for a great day.
Camping Gear and Reservations
Whether you are camping with an RV or primitive style, make a checklist and come prepared. Forgotten camping gear can also be rented on site at Anderson’s Outdoor Adventures. Reservations for Florida State Parks are now made through Reserve America at 1-800-326-352.
Where to Stay Near Manatee Springs State Park
Visitors can choose from 80 RV and primitive campsites at the park. But if you prefer a hotel or Airbnb, there are plenty of overnight accommodation options located just minutes from Manatee Springs State Park. Two recommendations include the Putnam Lodge in Cross City or the Days Inn by Wyndham located only six miles from the park entrance in Chiefland, Florida.
Food Nearby Manatee Springs State Park
Anderson's Outdoor Adventures is a veteran-owned and operated company specializing in outdoor adventures as well as Bar-B-Que. At Manatee Springs you can rent a kayak to float down the stream and enjoy slow-smoked, mouth-watering ribs, chicken and pulled pork in the same location. Fill your belly before or after a fun day of floating on the river. Hours vary depending on the season.
Airports Near Manatee Springs State Park
The two closest airports to Manatee Springs State Park are the Tampa and Orlando International Airports. Both are approximately a 2.5 hours’ drive to the entrance of the park. From Tampa (TPA), you will simply travel I-75 South for 159 miles. From Orlando (MCO), get ready to pay a few tolls as you follow the Florida Turnpike. Make sure to map all the twists and turns before setting off on your 145-mile journey.