Why mermaids and manatees love the Springs and how they survive the freezing Temperatures.
Updated: Apr 8
When is winter ending? Where’s the ground hog? Can we use an alligator instead? While waiting for these questions to be answered I took a road trip to the Chassahowitzka River Campground with my best friend Aaron, the Owner and operator of GBR and some of our close friends. Backroads are the way to travel around Florida if you are up for adding a little time and sightseeing through old Florida. The rain and 40 degrees did deter some sightseeing, but the caravan still managed to stop at some cool old gas stations that had vending machines we have not seen since the nineties. However, we didn’t just road trip to the springs to see old Florida sites and stuff our faces with coney island dogs. Springs are a vital part of the health of Florida estuaries, as well as the main source of our drinking water and the winter spot for the sea cow.
The Floridan aquifer system is approximately 100,000 square miles beneath all of Florida and parts of southeastern Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina and is one of the most productive aquifers in the world. Florida’s topography made up of limestone which is very porous. When slightly acidic rainwater filters horizontally for thousands of years over the limestone, it causes sections of the limestone rock to dissolve. This creates cavities and caves that grow, sometimes causing rock to collapse and form a sinkhole or a spring. These springs usually overflow into the rivers, and the rivers flow into our estuaries. If our springs become full of nutrient dense waters from loss of biodiversity, due to development, monoculture and the use of herbicides, homeostasis of the spring ecosystem begins to decline. This not only affects the local ecosystem directly, but it trickles down to our estuaries, causing an imbalance in those ecosystems leading to harmful algae blooms and other environmental threats. Our estuaries are the nursery of the gulf and responsible for about 80% of Florida’s economy. To keep our little sea stars and manatees healthy we need to be conscious that our freshwater and marine systems are directly connected.
Florida has about 1000 springs, the largest concentration of freshwater springs in the world. Manatees leave the gulf and estuaries take their winter vacation in the springs because these 2000lb mammals do not have a continues layer of blubber to keep warm, making it so they cannot survive in water temperatures under 70 degrees. Florida springs are at a constant 70-75 degrees even in the winter and when healthy, they are full of eelgrass and other aquatic plants manatee love to chow on.
.Camping without a blubber layer for mermaids and humans alike during the cold Florida snaps requires lots of layers, campfires and snacks and we nailed that! We just chickened out on paddling with the manatees, but that just means we have to take another road trip, and maybe next time we will have a tad warmer weather. Until the next adventure, stay warm and salty.