Diving Manatee Springs, Florida (1999)

Summer in Florida. Solution on this particular day is scuba diving with my friend, Maureen, at Manatee Springs. The springs flow into the Suwannee River a short distance from the spring head. The head discharges 96 million gallons a day of crystal clear spring water into the Suwannee, which is one-quarter mile from the spring head, and connected by a wooden boardwalk which passes through a cypress forest. The springs get their name from the fact that in the past, manatees (also known as "sea cows") were found swimming into the spring run to escape the cool Suwannee River water in the winter (the spring water is 72 degrees year round).

We first dive Catfish Sink, which is connected to the Manatee Springs by an underground tunnel a couple of hundred feet long. Catfish is a 120-foot wide circular basin which is covered with duckweed and other floating vegetation when we arrive. A wooden walkway and deck brings you down to the surface, where we don our gear and enter the water, which is made easy by a limestone shelf only a few feet deep next to the deck. Once under the surface, we find clear water and good visibility. The basin is about 35 feet deep, which gets easily silted up when diving near the bottom.

Because we are not cave certified divers, we do not enter the tunnel, but instead walk over to the springs for another dive. A limestone cliff drops you to a cave about 40 feet deep. We notice a very strong flow of water coming from the spring, which quickly carried us away from the head. We see a number of sun fish.



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