While visiting Crystal River on Florida’s Nature Coast I kept on bumping into fun info about Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. From what I gathered, the park had a lot of opportunities for wildlife sightings.
Let me tell you, not only do you have non-stop wildlife sightings, the park is unlike any other park we have ever visited. A great choice for a wildlife spotting adventure holiday.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park
Why Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is More of an Interactive Zoo than a Park?
About the Park
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a rehabilitation center for injured and orphaned West Indian manatees until they are returned to the wild.
The park’s centerpiece is a first-magnitude freshwater spring, which produces millions of gallons of crystal-clear water each hour with the spring outflow creating the Homosassa River.
Ivan Tors Animal Actors housed their trained animals at Homosassa Springs Attraction when the animals were not appearing in movies and television shows. One of the most popular was Buck, a black bear who was a stand-in for Gentle Ben in the television series.
The hippopotamus named Lucifer first came to the Homosassa Springs Attraction in 1964 as part of Ivan Tors Animal Actors. Lucifer, or Lu for short, is now one of the park’s longest residents. He celebrated his 49th birthday in 2009.
In addition to the four resident manatees in the spring, the park has been rehabilitating manatees from other facilities on a temporary basis.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park History
Homosassa Springs has been a tourist attraction since the early 1900s, when trains stopped to let passengers rest at the spring.
The 50-acre site and surrounding 100 acres were purchased in the 1940s and operated as a small attraction.
In 1964, the Norris Development Company bought the property and expanded and promoted Homosassa Springs as ‘Nature’s Own Attraction.’
In the park’s early days as Homosassa Springs Attraction, the emphasis was on entertainment. Rather than wildlife rehabilitation.
From 1978 to 1984, the land exchanged hands under several private ownerships.
In December 1984, the Citrus County Commission purchased the attraction to protect it as an environmentally sensitive area.
Today, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is owned by the state of Florida.
The Park is proud of two recent additions including a new Shore Bird Aviary and the new Homosassa River Walk and Manatee Observation Area.
Things To Do In Homosassa State Park
Boat Tours – Included in your admission, the tour takes you from the Visitor Center to the West Entrance to the Wildlife Park along Pepper Creek.
Hiking/Nature Trail – It is a 1.10 mile trail.
Reptile House – Offers close-up viewing of native snakes and other reptiles.
Visitor Center – It has several exhibits like: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Manatee Education Center and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Migratory Bird exhibit. A display on the history of Homosassa runs along the length of the inside wall of the Visitor Center. A diorama that shows what the town of Homosassa looked like in the early 1900s and includes a working replica of the Mullet train with a recorded message. A life-size crocodile and alligator made from moulds greet visitors to the center.
- Underwater observatory – if you’re lucky you can see manatee. We just saw turtles and schools of fish
- Train – there are two ways to get to the main park. The boat ride and also the train. Both are included in the entrance fee. The train is a lot faster. We took the boat in and when the tired kids were whining to go home, the train was a great alternative.
Information about Visiting Homasassa State Park
Admission Fee: $13.00* Adults. $5.00* Children, 6 -12. *Includes state and local taxes.
Hours: The park is open 9:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., 365 days a year. The last tickets are sold at 4:45 p.m.
Address: 4150 S. Suncoast Boulevard Homosassa, Florida 34446
Phone: (352) 628-5343
These are daily
Manatee Program – 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. – presents an informative program on the history of this endangered marine mammal and general information on the wild manatee population.
Wildlife Encounters – 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. – it introduces an example of a native Florida species, which may be a bird of prey, an opossum, a gopher tortoise or a non-venomous snake.
- Alligator and Hippopotamus – 12:30 p.m. – It discusses the history of the American
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park – Review