Tallahassee, FL - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) invites Floridians and visitors to start a new, one-of-a-kind holiday tradition by celebrating with mermaids and manatees at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. There is nowhere else in the world to see live mermaids or view manatees underwater in the wild without getting wet. The memories created at two of Florida’s most unique state parks will last a lifetime, and believe it or not, can all be done in one day.
“It’s truly a unique experience to see the mermaids perform at Weeki Wachee and now the wild manatees in their natural habitat from the underwater observatory at Homosassa Springs,” said DEP Florida State Parks Director Donald Forgione. “We hope you create a new holiday tradition with friends and family and enjoy the mermaids and manatees at Florida State Parks.”
Recently, Homosassa Springs opened the bridge gate that separates rehabilitating manatees in the spring bowl and wild manatees in the spring run. This is the first time the gate has been opened since it was constructed nearly 30 years ago, before the park was acquired by the state in 1989. During these last few cold nights, there have been more than 80 wild manatees in the spring. The floating underwater observatory, commonly called the Fishbowl, at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is the only place in the world where wild manatees can be viewed in their natural habitat while staying warm and dry. Visitors can also experience manatee programs daily at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. The park is open 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.
Located in Hernando County, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, ‘The Only City of Live Mermaids,’ is an important cultural resource and became the newest Florida State Park in 2008. One of Florida’s 33 first magnitude springs is found in the park, providing a valuable natural resource for preservation and protection. The park is home to the only underwater observatory built directly into a natural spring. The mermaids can be seen Thursday through Sunday at 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. Park hours are 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Weeki Wachee Springs and Homosassa Springs state parks are less than 25 miles apart, making a visit to both parks in one day possible, though spending a full day in each park is recommended to enjoy everything they have to offer. Recreational opportunities include picnicking, nature study, kayaking and bird-watching. Both parks have daily animal education programs and Homosassa Springs features an abundance of wildlife, including manatees, black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, American alligators, American crocodiles, river otters and a hippopotamus.
About Florida State Parks
Created in 1935 by the Florida Legislature, the Florida State Park system has grown from eight to 160 parks in the last 75 years. Today, the Florida Park Service manages more than 700,000 acres of Florida’s natural environment, including 100 miles of beaches, eight National Historic Landmarks and 39 sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Florida State Parks has been recognized by the National Recreation and Park Association as the nation’s first and only two-time Gold Medal winner for the nation’s best park service. For more information about Florida’s state parks, visit www.FloridaStateParks.org.