Manatee Spring and its run are on the east side of the Suwannee River with- in a densely wooded, lowland floodplain. The spring discharges into a conical sink depression. The spring pool measures 60 ft north to south and 75 ft east to west. The depth of the spring pool is 25 ft. The bottom of the spring pool is sand with numerous submerged logs. There is a limestone ledge 3 ft below the water surface and a vertical wall on the south side of the spring pool where wooden steps lead down into the water for swimming access.
There is a tremendous boil associated with this spring. The water is sky blue. There are many cypress trees and knees on the north and east shores of the spring pool. The spring run flows southward to the Suwannee River approximately 1200ft. A boardwalk follows the run to a dock at the mouth of the run on the Suwannee River. Uplands on the south side of the spring rise to approximately 15ft above the water level and are developed into a recreation area underneath a thick canopy of live oak and pine. There are numerous walkways and a rock wall along the south shore of the spring pool. The north shore is relatively pristine and wooded.
An extensive underwater cave system has been mapped at Manatee Spring. Divers report that entry into the cave against the current is very difficult.
Manatee Spring is approximately 7 miles (11.2 km) west of Chiefland within Manatee Springs State Park. From the US 19/27A and CR 320 intersection in Chiefland, drive west approximately 5.2 miles (8.4 km) on CR 320 to the entrance of the park. Follow park road to the main parking area; the spring is 200 ft (61 m) north of the parking lot.
It was later in the day when I first visited Manatee Springs, so that probably already threw off the trip a little. The park was moderately busy but the swimming area wasn't very crowded. With only one entrance to the spring pool area it was a little congested getting into the water, but once afloat there was plenty of room to move around.
It's worth nothing that there's almost nowhere to stand in the pool. As far as I could tell, the water pours out of a cave between 30ft and 40ft below the surface. You can swim to the banks near the cypress trees and barely get your toes on the sand, but for the most part this is a snorkeling and floaty spring only.
Diving down to the cave caught me by surprise as I had to clear my ears three times before getting to the mouth, and even then the force of the water escaping pushed me a good five feet downstream. This free-dive isn't for the feint of heart and could be the deepest I've had to dive to find one (save maybe DeLeon). It's enough to make me want to go back in the morning when the water is clearer and the sun is higher.
11650 N.W. 115th Street
Chiefland, Florida 32626