The haunting beauty of Wakulla Springs and River

VulturesThere was an added bonus in meeting Laurel and Eric of Raven and Chickadee.  Since they had spent so much time in northwestern Florida and have family there, they know the area very well.  They advised us that a trip to Wakulla Springs State Park for one of their river boat tours was not to be missed.  Wakulla springs is located just south of Tallahassee and is one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world.  The world?  Yep, thats right.  We learned that this spring discharges an average of 260 million gallons of beautiful, fresh water every day.

Wakulla Spring

Wakulla Spring – Some of the old Tarzan episodes were filmed here.  Today, the abundance of wildlife are fortunate to enjoy the beauty of the area.

Here are some fun facts about freshwater springs in Florida:wpid23297-2014-03-09-FL-1320158.jpg

  • Florida has the largest concentration of freshwater springs on earth more than 600 in all.
  • Most of the springs are found in north and north-central Florida.
  • Water coming from the springs flows through the Aquifer and is the source of over 90% of the state’s drinking water.

With no rain in the forecast for the next few days, we scheduled our continuing exploration of the “Real Florida”.  The spring is the heart of Wakulla Springs State Park.  It is the origin of the Wakulla River, which flows southwest and finally dumps into the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachee Bay. We came here for the main attraction of the river tour, but the park itself is beautiful with many picnic tables and walking paths that make it a great place to spend a day.

After paying the $8 per person fee, we took the first ranger-guided boat tour at 9:00am. For 45 minutes we were treated to close-up sightings of what we have recently grown to appreciate and love, classic Florida river scenery and wildlife.  Unlike other rivers we have traveled, Wakulla River is bordered by tall Spanish Moss-draped Bald Cypress trees.

Bald Cypress along Wakulla River

Seeing vultures hanging out in the treetops induced a kind of “haunted house” feeling, like something you might see in an old horror movie.

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The tour covers the first three miles of the river, which is  protected as a wildlife sanctuary within the Wakulla Springs State Park.

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As we cruised along, several of these gorgeous little guys paid no attention to us:

Male Hooded Merganser

Male Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Female Hooded Mergansers, no doubt rushing off to the beauty salon.

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One of the areas where Tarzan swung through the trees.  Pristine and gorgeous!

Anhinga

Anhinga working on his tan

River Boats at Wakulla Springs State Park

River boat dock at Wakulla Springs State Park

There was an abundance of wildlife that our knowledgeable park ranger pointed out to us.  She told us that since only the park’s tour boats are allowed here, the wildlife has become accustomed to them.  That’s why we were ignored and got such an up-close look at them.  Even the normally skittish turtles didn’t jump into the river as we passed!

Here are a few more of the beautiful creatures that posed for us:

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Turtle

Hey, you looking at me?

But the highlight on this day was witnessing some tender moments between a couple of manatees.  We have typically seen them just slowly cruising along, occasionally coming up for a gulp of air.

Manatee

A happy manatee acting like an otter.

Well, this time we witnessed two manatees actually hugging and obviously enjoying each other’s company – amazing!  Click the link below to see a short clip of what we saw (sorry it’s a bit shaky, I was so excited!).

One last shot…

Mating Manatees

Next up:  Our exploration of the Real Florida continues…

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