Because of the warm, clean water discharged by the power plant, manatee gather here by the hundreds. We stopped briefly in the Information Center where there is a wealth of information about manatees including interactive displays for kids (and adults!)
On this day, the manatees were not visible from the primary observation area. If you follow the boardwalk past the information center and the butterfly garden, it goes through mangrove forest and tidal creek into the canal where the manatees gather.
Unfortunately, the water was not very clear and we could only see parts of the manatees as different parts of their bodies break the surface of the water. Because they are mammals, manatees need to come up for air, but they just stick the tip of a nose above the water line.
Manatees that have recently arrived from the bay frequently have barnacles on their backs.
Sometimes you can catch a quick glimpse of a flipper or a tail as the manatee swims and dives.
But mostly, you can catch glimpses of their backs as they float, swim, and eat the vegetation on the bottom of the canal. There are two manatees visible in the second photo.
We returned to the Visitor Center and then walked to the opposite end of the parking lot to find the Nature Trail that leads to an observation deck. I love stand-ins and always want a photo of John (or Sadie) with one. But, alas, John does not share my enthusiasm, so I ended up being the one with my face in the cut out!
We followed the yellow and green nature trails t(about 1.5 mile round trip) through the coastal area on the property of the Tampa Electric Big Bend power plant. Initially, the trail is a wide shell path through a high marsh. It continues onto an elevated boardwalk to the 50' observation tower.
A canoe trail winds through this part of the estuary of the Tampa Bay where fishing is permitted. The water appears brown, but it is not dirty. The color is caused by tannic acid released into the water by decaying vegetation. Below are views from the tower. The town of Apollo Beach can be seen in the distance.
For additional information about the Manatee Viewing Center (no admission fee), click on this link: www.tampaelectric.com/company/mvc/.
We drove to nearby Apollo Beach for dinner at Circles Waterfront Restaurant (www.circleswaterfront.com) for dinner. It is located at Land's End Marina providing lovely views in the evening from the terrace. Our doggy, Sadie, was allowed to join us, as well. The food was good and service was great, too.
A perfect end to our visit to the Manatee Viewing Center. Kudos to Tampa Electric for preserving this area of their property for nature trails, providing educational opportunities, and enabling the public to view manatees in this sanctuary.