And we did. And you must, too, if you find yourself in central Florida. It was well worth the hurried production of changing and dressing and feeding and navigating (and maybe a few false stops for coffee before finding a shop that was open and had a functioning espresso machine...).
The park is a designated manatee refuge and home to the largest spring on the St. Johns River. It has a fascinating natural and social history. Thanks to my friend, Sarah, for tipping us off to this incredible place!
We arrived just after the park opened at 8 a.m. The rangers had counted 16 manatees in the spring that morning, including a few babies. The water was clean and clear, appearing brilliant blue in some places and grass green in others. A boardwalk stretched the length of the spring, with small docks extending over the water along the way for excellent viewing. It was teeming with activity; everywhere we stopped, we saw a handful of manatees, schools of huge fish called gar and, here and there, alligators, heron and cormorant. (Believe it or not, all of the above are present in the following frame, though a few are hidden in the shadows.)