Manatee Springs

Manatee Spring is designated as an Outstanding Florida Spring flowing at the first magnitude level in Levy County. Manatee Spring State Park is in the Suwannee River Water Management District and is the first spring on the Suwannee River upstream of where it enters the Gulf of Mexico. It is a popular stop for manatees in the winter months. It remains above most floodwaters in the rainy season due to its high flow rate and location several hundred feet off the Suwannee River. Drawing on a deep and powerful cave system, Manatee Spring historically held “a lucid sea green color…throwing up small particles or pieces of white shells,” according to early European accounts. Today the headspring suffers from elevated nitrate levels, which promote dense algae growth. Despite Manatee’s impaired state, many divers frequent the nearby Catfish Hotel sinkhole, which provides easy access to a cave system renowned for its strong flow and challenging conditions.

Manatee Springs, 2013. Photo by John Moran.
Bowfin at Manatee Springs, 2017. Photo by John Moran.
Manatee Springs, 2017. Photo by John Moran.
Manatee Springs. Photo by John Moran.
Manatee Springs, 2015. Photo by John Moran.
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Manatee Springs, 2013. Photo by John Moran.
Bowfin at Manatee Springs, 2017. Photo by John Moran.
Manatee Springs, 2017. Photo by John Moran.
Manatee Springs. Photo by John Moran.
Manatee Springs, 2015. Photo by John Moran.
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In 2016, the Florida Legislature passed the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act

As part of that law, the state of Florida developed a list of 30 springs that are either historic first-magnitude springs, or of other importance. The term Outstanding Florida Spring (OFS) refers to this list of 30 springs or spring groups. If water quality is found impaired, these springs require a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) to achieve water quality standards within a 20-year time frame.
 

Manatee Springs is currently one of the twenty four Outstanding Florida Springs or Springs Groups that is considered “impaired”.

Historic images

The following images were provided courtesy of the State Archives of Florida. This incredible photographic library provides a window into the historic spring landscape, documenting changing spring and surface water levels, as well as human use and development in this special location.

Swimming at Manatee Springs State Park - Chiefland, Florida, 1960. Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
Manatee Springs boardwalk, 1958. Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
View of officials with boat at the Manatee Springs State Park, 1961. Photo by Karl E. Holland, courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
Manatee Springs State Park on the Suwannee River, c. 20th century. Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
Campers at Manatee Springs State Park - Chiefland, Florida. 1968. Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida
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Swimming at Manatee Springs State Park - Chiefland, Florida, 1960. Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
Manatee Springs boardwalk, 1958. Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
Officials with boat at Manatee Springs, 1961. Photo by Karl E. Holland, courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
Manatee Springs State Park on the Suwannee River, c. 20th century. Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
Campers at Manatee Springs State Park - Chiefland, Florida. 1968. Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida
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Science Hub

This is the location for access to data related to this spring. Below, you will find links to reports, data, as well as maps and information from the Florida Springs Institute’s Blue Water Audit project about this particular spring or spring group. 

The Blue Water Audit is a tool developed by the Florida Springs Institute to estimate and visualize the impact of human activities on the Floridan Aquifer. Using existing data from a variety of sources, the Blue Water Audit estimates nitrogen loading and groundwater withdrawals for the Florida Springs Region. These estimates are used to assign Aquifer Footprints – a Floridan Aquifer Nitrogen Footprint (water quality) and a Floridan Aquifer Groundwater Footprint (water quantity). Below are maps of the Blue Water Audit Floridan Aquifer Nitrogen footprint for the Manatee Springs springshed within the Suwannee River Water Management District, as well as a map of the land use within the Manatee Springs springshed. To find out more about the Blue Water Audit project and to learn how this tool was developed, visit Blue Water Audit.

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The Wacissa Spring Group lies at the northern end of the Aucilla Wildlife Management Area in Jefferson
County and forms the headwaters of the Wacissa River. Over twenty springs form a cluster that runs
along the river. A public boat ramp allows for easy access to the core of the spring cluster. This dense
core contains Log, Thomas, Wacissa #1-4, and Acuilla springs, which together form a large bowl of fast-
flowing water. Along the run, large patches of Coontail compete with beds of Hydrilla beneath the clear
water. The combined magnitude and isolation of the Wacissa springs make the location one of the most
pristine in the state, earning the system a spot on the list of OFSs despite none of the individual springs
flowing at the first magnitude.