We were surprised in December to travel only three hours from home near Pensacola to Wakulla Springs and find herds of manatees in the river there. We expected the other wildlife, the alligators, the birds -- but we thought the manatees were a fixture of SOUTH Florida. And, here they were - right up at our latitude. To be fair - they do not even advertise in the Wakulla Springs brochure that there are manatees there because nearly all their tourism is in the summer and the manatees don't come up the river in the summer because they do not need the protection of the constant 68 degree water in the summer. Winter at that latitude can put a sheet of thin ice over these shallow spring fed rivers and it is deadly to manatees. So, they move North in the river to the springs and find relative warmth. We liked the boat ride so much we took a second trip to Wakulla Springs a few weeks after our first.
The wildlife in and around the river there has not been hunted or fished in nearly 100 years. They observe the passing boats with tourists as a minor distraction to be ignored. It is a photographer's playground.
The December trip led us to explore a potential extended Florida camping trip, similar to the Black Hills trip we took in late 2011. The winter season is more comfortable for Florida and it turns out that even with snowbirds in relative abundance, the natural parts of Florida are not terribly crowded. So, our January plans were put in motion. - Follow this blog for progress reports.