They charge a bit more for entry than Massachusetts does, six bucks per carload instead of our meager two. But it's still a very reasonable price and more importantly, they're obviously putting every cent right back into the parks...
In their full color, magazine-sized park brochures the state touts their park system as the 'Real Florida'. It's an ingenious angle and so true. You don't neccessarily have to pay the sickening 80 dollars per person, plus parking, at the mega-theme parks to enjoy a visit to the state.
Take our word for it, we checked. 3 times.
Fridays visit topped them all with a look at Blue Springs, where the water is 73 degrees year round. The steady water temp and state park protection makes for a perfect and safe winter home for the beleagured manatee. And the crystal clear spring water makes for some perfect viewing of the big, gentle creatures.
It's got to be one of the best spots anywhere to see these animals in the wild. (Jaques Cousteau thought so, when he came here back in the 70's to document them; influencing the state to purchase the land).
We saw that some of the manatees sported heavy, concentric scars on their backs and tails, consistent with the damage we've heard motorboat propellors inflict in less protected waterways.
Like the other parks we've seen, there are long sections of winding boardwalk constructed above and through the forest and wetland for minimal damage to the environment.
At this park the walkways are particularly long and run parrallel to the spring fed river, all the way to it's source where the warm water bubbles up from a dark opening below.
Cormorants, egrets, kingfishers and turtles are everywhere along the way, and the clear water is positively teaming with a half dozen varieties of large fish. All this wildlife and abundant nature in February; it's really amazing to a northerners' eyes...
The mammoth manatees gently rolling in the clean, clear current seemed to give off an aura of quiet peace and contentment. We could have stayed there all day...