Friday, March 16, 2012
Canaveral National Seashore
While we were on Cape Canaveral, we stayed in a rundown, old RV campground beautifully perched on the Intracoastal Waterway. While relaxing next to the water in the evening, we caught a brief glimpse of a manatee so first thing in the morning we went back to check the water. The 50+ year-old, tattoed Harley guy with a relaxed mohawk camping next to the water came out and told us that he usually sees manatees, dolphins, and sting rays in the morning and showed us where to look. Shortly afterwards I found a small stingray swimming around, but no manatees or dolphins were to be seen. Our plan was to get out around 9am and head to the National Seashore. I know it will be a surprise to you all, but as it turns out, we were running late. Jason had a 10am meeting so we stayed in the campground while he sat in the van on the phone leaving the boys and I with time to watch the water for manatees. The evening before, we learned that the manatees leave oval-shaped patterns in the water as they swim by so we kept a sharp eye out for our round-shape making friends. As we sat by the water, long-term RV inhabitants were making their morning rounds chatting with neighbors and some came by to hang out and give us wildlife pointers. It was clear they were excited to have to young folks to hang out with. As we talked, manatees starting swimming by. We saw them in groups of two, three, and four. We saw a momma with, what must have been a new-born, only four feet long, and one of her older kids. They seemed to be swimming laps up and down the banks of the river because we must have seen them twenty times! We would walk side-by-side with them, only ten or fifteen feet away, down the length of the campground and then we would turn around, go back to where we started and walk down with the next family group. One of the long-term residents said they usually see one or two manatees per day, she couldn't believe how many we were seeing. She was convinced that they had come just for us. I had hoped that we may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a manatee on this trip. It was way beyond imagination that we would ever see this many! As I made lunch the boys and Jason continued to watch them swim by.
After lunch we headed out to the Canaveral National Seashore, the largest undeveloped stretch of coastal Florida, thanks to NASA needing a huge buffer zone for launching rockets into space. After driving through Florida forest, spotting all kinds of cool birds, we stopped at the beach where the boys quickly immersed themselves into the ocean with much delight. When some storm clouds threatened in the distance, we decided to head further down the shoreline to the lagoon at the end of the road. After parking, as we walked down the boardwalk, we could see very large leathery forms on the beach at which point Jason exclaimed, "hey look manatee....no wait, just man." We had seen lots of signs warning that it was illegal to be nude on the beach (or anywhere really) and now we understand who it was directed towards. We decided that perhaps we should go check out the lagoon....we had seen enough manatees for one day.
On the way out of the park, we made a quick stop at the visitor station before they closed for the night. On the grounds, there is a boardwalk that takes you through some wetlands. As we reached the end, I spotted our very first alligator! The boys were so excited to see the lazy beast snoozing across the pond from us. As we watched him yawn, we pondered the amazing fact that they had to make a law against taunting these large animals with huge teethy mouths.
Click here for photos.