Steinhatchee, FL Tuesday Feb. 24
For “branding” purposes, Florida goes wild over naming the various coasts. Today we are in the “Nature Coast”. In case you are interested, the others are (from NE Atlantic Coast down and around to the Gulf of Mexico): A. First Coast-St. Augustine, etc; B. Space Coast-Cape Canaveral, etc; C. Treasure Coast-Palm Beach, etc; D. Gold Coast-Fort Lauderdale & Miami, etc; E. Paradise Coast-Naples etc on the Gulf; F. Cultural Coast-Sarasota, etc; G. Sun Coast-St. Petersburg, Clearwater, etc; H.Nature Coast-this next section north of St. Pete with rivers and springs and not too many people; I. Forgotten Coast-that stretch from St. Marks over through Apalachicola to Panama City,etc; and J. the Emerald Coast-Panama City to Pensacola. Whew, that is a lot of coast and I hope I got it correct.
We left Orlando in clouds and drove through rain to reach Steinhatchee late this afternoon. No check in time was stated on our email confirmation so we had a late lunch/early dinner in a small town called Chieflands at a local Bar B Q restaurant. One advantage of small towns, eating out is usually inexpensive. After the meal, we finished our drive to Steinhatchee and drove around the town to understand where the grocery store and restaurants were. We arrived at Steinhatchee Landing Resort just before 5 pm. The check-in office closes at 5 pm. But this is a small town (population 1,100), if we had not arrived before the office closed, our information would have been outside of the office and our key inside our unlocked unit.
Steinhatchee Landing Resort is a collection of about 50 individually owned second homes, with 1 BR through 4 BR units available for rent. There is a boat dock and boat/canoe rentals. Fishing is about the only major activity in the area. We are here because of a good lodging rate and it is an area we would not otherwise see. President and Mrs. Carter vacationed here in 1994 for a family, fishing vacation.
Only 4 of the units have residents who live here year round. We met one of them while walking around. He spends much of his time fishing; he is in the process of building a home on the property but after two years here is just beginning to get the building under way. He rents from a friend for now. He indicated scallop “fishing” is big here in the summer; the Gulf waters are extremely shallow for miles out; hundreds of boats will go out and the people scuba dive and harvest scallops. There are numerous marinas in town and charter boats are big business with guides who will take you out fishing.
But just so you know how hard we work to keep our readers informed, we stopped at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park on our way here. The rain was coming down but we had our rain jackets and umbrellas to fulfill our obligation to report to you.
Homosassa Springs Park started as a privately owned fish, animal, and springs attraction. It was one of those early American roadside attractions that were popular in the post WWII era. The state took it over 25 years ago and cleared out the zoo animals that were not native to Florida, except for Lu. Lu the hippo is over 50 years old and when the state took over the park, there was such an outcry about his possible ejection (hippos not being native to Florida after all) that the then Governor of Florida (Lawton Chiles) declared Lu an official resident and he lives on in his watering hole.
Homosassa is one of several manatee visiting areas in this section of Florida. Manatees are big, slow-moving mammals that live in the ocean and rivers, eating grasses, and spending most of their time underwater. Normally you only see their snout sticking out of the water to breathe. When the weather is cold, they will frequent warmer rivers. When the weather is hot, they are farther out in the ocean. The Homosassa, and several other rivers in this part of the state, are spring fed and are 72 degrees F year round. Depending on the day and the temperature, you might see just a few manatees or throngs of them in the rivers. We have met people on this trip you were touring on cold days and saw throngs of manatees. We saw only two today. Since they are normally underwater, our best photo of them only shows a blur.
The rest of the park has numerous Florida wildlife. We saw panthers, bobcats, black bear, alligators, and lots of birds. Since these animals were in captivity, we were less thrilled to view them then if we were out hiking. Most of the animals were here as part of an animal rescue program; they had been hurt or were in too close of proximity to urban dwellers.
As mentioned, the Homosassa River is spring fed. The park has placed an underwater viewing pod just over the spring and you can observe schools of fish, and sometimes manatees, hovering around the spring outlet. Today there were no manatees but thousands of fish just lazing around the spring.
Tomorrow may be more rain and our current thoughts are to drive to Gainesville and take in a museum.
Ed and Chris 2/24 8:45 pm