Manatees: Wakulla Springs Most Interesting Guests!

Check into the lodge at Wakulla Springs State park on a crisp cool evening and you are immediately greeted with the warmth of an open hearth fireplace and the security of stone walls radiating comfort and solace. These stately accommodations meet all your needs for refuge and rejuvenation with opportunities for an old fashion game of chess or checkers, great food, and time to reconnect with cherished friends and family.

Wakulla Springs Lodge offers guests warmth and rest from the winters cooler

Wakulla Springs Lodge offers guests warmth and rest from the winter’s cooler weather just like the springs offers manatees refuge on winter’s coldest days. (Photos by L. Scott Jackson)

Wakulla Springs hosts about 200,000 visitors each year and is one of North Florida’s most popular swimming spots with peak attendance between April and August. It’s a great place to beat the heat on a hot summer’s day. The same cool 250 million gallons of 69F degree water that provides welcome relief to visitors on hot summer’s day also provides an inviting warm refuge on winter’s coldest days to another type of park guest, manatees.

Wakulla Springs is the Gulf of Mexico’s northernmost geographic location where manatees congregate and consistently overwinter in large numbers. Last week, park guides estimated 30 individuals in the springs and river run.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation and Commission / Florida Wildlife Research Institute’s winter synoptic aerial survey of Florida’s manatees in 2011 totaled 4,834 individuals. Improved survey techniques have resulted in increased estimates for Florida manatees in recent years, however, they still remain listed as endangered.

Daily river cruises on the Wakulla River are a great way to see Manatees and other unique wildlife.

Daily river cruises on the Wakulla River are a great way to see manatees and other unique wildlife.         (Photo by L. Scott Jackson)

Consistent water temperatures below 65F can result in stress, pneumonia, or colds in manatees. Other environmental conditions can also cause problems for manatees. This year, a large number of Florida manatee moralities have been reported as a result of a harmful algal bloom on the Atlantic Coast in the Indian River Lagoon. Florida manatees are also frequently struck by boat hulls and boat motor propellers; the signs of which are often seen in individuals with tell-tale propeller scars.

Education and stewardship are two of the best ways to help manatees. You can connect with these Florida ambassadors locally on a Wakulla Riverboat Tour at the State Park or through outfitters that provide kayaks and local guiding knowledge. Simple changes in home practices that protect water quality also protect the water resources used by manatees and other wildlife. Observing manatee protection zones and reducing boat speed also have been shown to reduce the impact of boating activities on manatees. To report sick or dead manatees, please call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Read more manatee facts in the following UF/IFAS publication: Life in the Sea.

Manatee Quick Facts


Fisheries Management and Artificial Reefs

Fish swimming in cube reef located near Taylor County, Florida - Courtesy of Florida Sea Grant

Fish swimming in cube reef located near Taylor County, Florida.

sea grant blue

One of the highlights from last week’s Northwest Florida Artificial Reef Workshop was the panel discussion which included Bill Lindberg, Bob Shipp, Will Patterson, and Luiz Barbieri. These researchers provided information regarding the current state of reef fisheries in the Gulf. Additionally, they suggested strategies for use of artificial reefs.  Please view the session recording by clicking here.


Date Changed for Northwest Florida Artificial Reef Workshop in Niceville: February 19-20

Picture of a boat and an ecosystem artificial reef

Save the date for the Florida Sea Grant-FWC Artificial Reef Workshop on Feb. 19-20 in Niceville. (Photo courtesy Bill Horn, FWC)

Please save the date for the 2013 Northwest Florida Regional Artificial Reef Workshop sponsored by Florida Sea Grant and FWC, to be held at the Niceville Community Center in Niceville, FL on Wednesday-Thursday, February 19-20, 2013. (Change due to Gulf Council Meeting Date Conflict)

Agenda and Registration Information will be published here by Dec 14, 2012 or earlier.

For more information send email to

Waukeenah Plantation to Host Stewardship Tour Dec 6 – Registration Open

Forest management?  Wild Life Habitat?  History?

No matter what your interest, the December 6 Forest Stewardship Tour at Waukeenah Plantation in southern Jefferson County will give you an onsite vision of developing a forest on your property. Waukeenah Plantation was purchased by its current owners just a little over twenty-five years ago. Since then, pines have replaced pastures and the property is being managed for timber production and wildlife habitat. The day’s program will be hosted by the Florida-Georgia Game Management Series and the University of Florida Forest Stewardship program and will feature how habitat can be developed and enhanced in a relatively short time.

This is just the latest change in the use of this land. Long before Hernando deSoto camped here, indigenous peoples enjoyed the clear streams and fertile lands near the Cody Scarp. In the early nineteenth century, planter Robert Gamble set up the original Waukeenah Plantation. In addition to the recently planted pines, the site boasts hardwoods in the creek bottoms. Tour stops will visit both and discuss the management of each to enhance wildlife habitat. Tour leaders will include speakers from the University of Florida and University of Georgia Extension Services, the Florida Department of Forestry, National Wild Turkey Federation, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Florida Public Archeology Network.

For more information, contact Jed Dillard at or 850-342-0187. Register online at . Registration is limited and required.