Sunday, August 8, 2010

Where to see manatees at Merritt National Wildlife Refuge

During our trip north from south Florida, we stopped at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I had read that it was a good place for the possibility of spotting manatees.

As we headed east from Titusville on route 406, I pulled over at the first parking lot at water's edge, right at the start of the new bridge. We got lucky and spotted two of them swimming up and down the coastline. We didn't get to see much of their bodies but there is no doubt what we saw were manatees.

As we made our way into the park, we took the first right after crossing the causeway, just before Gator Creek Road (there is a small wooden information display just past the road we took). This took us onto a winding but well packed dirt road and we meandered through the marshes, stopping to take photographs of mangroves and birds. We probably spent about 1 1/2 hrs in this area and I know we didn't cover all of the trails.

Next we headed northeast, through the park, on the road that would take us back to the mainland, north of Titusville. As we drove we spotted a sign for a Manatee Viewing Area. This was a right turnoff just after crossing the bridge at the Haulover Canal. We walked along the viewing platform and did see some manatees.

However, to make a very long story short (we visited the waterways along all four corners of the bridge), to really see manatees head over to the boat ramp area. In the small basin that led into the ramp we probably saw 10-15 manatees, very active and some no more than 6-10 feet away. We were told this was mating season and we could see a lot of "kissing" going on between the larger males and the smaller females.

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