Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

We found the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park on the internet last night while we were looking for a park to go to to make supper but the entrance fee here was $13!!! What! $13 to enter a State Park...are they crazy?

Then I read a bit more...I have never seen manatees before and these creatures have held a special place in my heart for many years. I can't explain why...there is just something magical about them. They are such calm, curious and gentle creatures.

Since it is late Spring most manatee have swam away so seeing any in the wild without going on a tour will be unlikely. There are currently 7 resident manatee at the park (rescues) and the underwater viewing area sold off we went to pay our $13 admission. The good 5-12 are only $5 which meant our two girls were free! I like it when young kids get discounts and free is even better :)

We entered off of US19 to the main entrance.

From here we took a pontoon ride but while we waited for the boat to arrive there were a few displays and trivia questions and guessing games to play.

Looking at the turtle sitting on the rocks
as we wait for the ride to start.

Close up of the turtle

This boat ride is usually a 20 minutes and a narrated ride but there was a threat of a small thunderstorm so they rushed us to the other entrance to keep us dry. If you go to this park make sure you park at the main entrance or you will miss this pontoon ride and it was half the fun! (there is a second entrance on Fishbowl Drive right across the road from where the pontoon drops you off)

As soon as we arrived, sure enough the rain came...and went almost as quickly as it came thankfully. The sun came back out and 15 minutes later you couldn't even tell it rained.

We went to see the manatee first but they were all hiding :(

Near the manatee area there is a children's educational building full of displays and activities where the girls both played for quite awhile.

and then we walked to see the manatee show (educational program).

Aayla is quite taken by this drawing of a flying squirell

Biggest Blackest grasshopper I have ever seen!
 Grasshoppers are green or brown where we come from
and our largest are 1/2 this size!
Since this is also lunchtime for the manatee, they were ready and waiting for the program to begin. These guys were huge! Much bigger then I expected but just as magical and graceful as I had enviosioned.

Sierra wasn't impressed with the manatee show...they didn't jump and dive like the dolphins did!

We also viewed them from the underwater area but disappointingly the glass really needed a good cleaning. The algea on the windows made it hard to get a clear picture :(

From here we walked to the Garden of the Springs Area where you can in early spring see wild manatee in the river. We didn't see any today but we arrived there as a bigger rain storm arrived and had a nice covered area as the rain passed.

When it started to dry up we walked through the rest of the park. Due to the thunder we weren't able to see the bears and other large animals as they hide from the noise but we saw so much more!

I am so happy we went and paid the entrance fees because this park was so nice to walk around, (we spent almost 5 hours here) and there really was so much to see. Most of it local...the one exception was Lu who actually is an honorary Florida citizen...a Hippo! He was a resident of the park when it was a private park and when the State bought it, they found homes for most of the animals there but finding a home for a huge, older Hippo was hard. Florida residents petitioned to keep him and now celebrate his birthday on Jan 26th every year. You can go celebrate with him on Jan 26, 2012 to celebrate Lu's 52nd birthday!

There were alligators,

a reptile house,

and this snake we saw slithering outside along the path. Lucky for me we were walking on an elevated path or I might have had a heart attack!

deer, as well as the bears and big cats who were hiding, foxes

 and so many birds. Some were rescue and some were wild who just made their homes here, but all were beautiful!

And on our way out, where mr Turtle was when we entered...
Mr Alligator now sat...this one is wild.

So would I recomend you cough up $13 per adult to go betcha! It was well worth it!

From here we went in search of  a Passport America site nearby with cable as our satelittle provider is not playing the Canucks game tonight and we found another great little RV park. It's actually quite big but has a small time feel to it.

Rock Crusher Canyon RV Park (review to come when we leave) at $16 for the night with Passport America...we quite like it! The girls enjoyed the playground and we have a turtle burrow right beside us. It's roped off as they are a protected species. There's a nice pool, hot tub, laundry, and games/meeting room. Wifi and cable are included as well as an RV wash! Guess what we are doing tomorrow???

This park offers quite a lot in a nice clean environment for the fee we paid. The girls wanted to go in the pool tonight but we had to get them to bed a bit early tonight as we have a surprise EARLY in the morning :)

To top off a great day...we won round 1 of the finals for the Stanley Cup!!!
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