Sunday, June 27, 2010

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park - Homosassa Springs, Florida

The manatee of the Florida Gulf Coast have become a favorite attraction for visitors to the Sunshine State. They can be found from the Big Bend south to the Keys, but perhaps the best place to see them up close and personal without even getting your feet wet is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

Located 60 miles north of Tampa and 90 miles northwest of Orlando on U.S. Highway 19, the spring has been a tourist attraction for so long that it holds a unique place in Florida history as a result. Beginning in around 1900, trains ran along what is now Fish Bowl Drive, a street that passes through the park. The trains would stop at Homosassa Springs to let passengers rest by the spring. Slowly it developed into a popular attraction.

In the 1930s it was home to a hunting lodge owned by baseball legend Dazzy Vance. In the 1960s a company that trained animals for use in Hollywood movies and television shows located there. Visitors could even meet Buck the Bear, who doubled for "Gentle Ben" in the popular tv show of that name.

Today Homosassa Springs is a state park, noted for its pristine beauty and crystal clear water. Six manatee call the spring home and can be seen there 365 days a year. The park also cares for other manatee that are recuperating from injuries or illness until they can be returned to the wild. Visitors can watch them swimming in the spring or even walk down a stairway into an underwater observation room to see them from a fish eye view.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is also home to Lu the Hippo. He holds the distinction of being the only hippopotamus who has been declared an official resident of the State of Florida. To learn his story and more, please visit

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