October 12th was my 60th birthday so Bonnie had scheduled a great day of kayaking on a nearby spring fed river called Weeki Wachee while we were staying safe from Hurricane Michael in Bushnell, FL. This place was also home to a popular mermaid show where young women swam underwater while connected to air hoses. I had every intention of getting a photo of me standing next to a mermaid but I must be getting old because kayaking seemed more interesting at that particular point in time. We paddled along the Weeki Wachee with waters so clean and clear you could see fish, turtles, and an 8 foot water moccasin swimming across the river in front of us. Apparently, a lot of water moccasin snakes breed along this river and I paddled us into an area where a large sign warned about aggressive snakes (yikes) !!! Bonnie got a little aggravated with me when I rowed the bow of our kayak too close to the snake warning sign for an up close photo that I wanted her to take. Birds such as cormorants and anhingas were chasing fishing all around us and would jump up into low hanging tree branches so they could dry their wings. We enjoyed the beauty of Weeki Wachee and looked forward to visiting more springs in Florida. Here are some photos that were taken while kayaking at Weeki Wachee Springs…

Dan & Bonnie getting ready to kayak at Weeki Wachee. Note the caution sign we are standing next to….
Anhinga drying it’s wings

Besides Weeki Wachee, we spent a few days visiting Rainbow Springs State Park and stayed at the campground located in one section of the park. This spring fed waterway was one of our favorites because you could launch your kayak from the campground, paddle upstream against a mild current until you reached the head of the spring, and then slowly float back to where you started. The river created by the underground fresh water aquifer was crystal clear and full of fish, birds, turtles, and alligators. This was our first major sighting of a fairly large alligator which was sunning himself on top of some grass along the river bank. I became somewhat obsessed with spotting more gators because they are such ancient and powerful predators but didn’t see any others. We did see small groups of people snorkeling and diving along the river even though alligators lived along the Rainbow Springs waterway. Bonnie and I went swimming in a large roped off area located at the spring head end of the park waterway and enjoyed its cool refreshing waters. This was truly an incredible place to visit and observe a natural ecosystem at its finest. Here are some pics that will give you a glimpse into the beauty that exists in Rainbow Springs and other similar fresh water springs in Florida…

Head Springs at Rainbow Springs State Park
Cormorant fishing
Anhinga drying its wings
Anhinga sitting in branches while drying it’s wings
Alligator laying in the sun
Turtles warming themselves on top of a log
Blue Heron wading near shore
Turtle swimming underwater

Kings Bay, which is fed by fresh water springs, is home to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, and shelters manatees year-round. We rented a kayak and paddled ourselves out into the Crystal River city harbor to spot manatees. Manatees are called “sea cows” because they feed on eel grass and consume huge amounts of it just like a milking cow eats grass and chews it. Manatees spend approximately 50% of the day sleeping submerged and come up for air regularly at 15-20 minute intervals. The remainder of their time is spent grazing in shallow waters where they can live for up to 60 years. The biggest threat to the manatee populations is boats who run over them in the water and them with propeller blades.

The weather was still warm so most of the manatees were out in the ocean along the coast but eventually we did spot a mother manatee and her calf. Unfortunately, there was a tour boat operator nearby who dumped about 10 people into the water so they could snorkel around a mother manatee and her baby calf. One of the people (a young woman) was continuously hovering over the mother manatee and constantly touching and rubbing her back. I thought Bonnie was going to jump out of our kayak, grab the young woman by her wet pony-tail, and yank her right out of the water but cooler heads prevailed. Our kayak rental operator had required us to watch a video about manatee etiquette and verbally told us that you don’t harass or touch manatees because it isn’t good for their overall health. It is also against the law to chase, ride or harass manatees or touch them unless it touches you first. Apparently, this young woman from the tour boat hadn’t listened to or been given the “manatee rules”. Maybe, she was mentally challenged or possibly just plain stupid. The tour boat operator should have told the young woman to stop touching the manatee but didn’t say anything. We tried to float nearby and observe the mother manatee and her baby but the tour boat people had separated mother from baby. The tour group left shortly afterwards so hopefully the mother and baby were able to spend the rest of the day in relative peace. Check out these photos from Crystal River…

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