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An Unlikely Spot for a Manatee Viewing Center – Tampa, Florida

Manatees are some of the coolest animals you can possibly see in the wild. It’s kind of like walking along a trail and bumping into Black bear, truly awe inspiring.

My family and I are huge Manatee lovers and fans. We’ve even swam with manatee in Crystal River and Homosassa Springs area, part of Florida’s Nature Coast.

So when I heard that there is a viewing spot for Manatee, I was all over it. The catch was, it is part of Tampa Electric’s plant. Who would have ever thought this would be a place for manatee to congregate and play.

Manatee Viewing Center - Tampa, Florida

How Big Bend Power Station – TECO Manatee Viewing Center Came About

Manatee Viewing Center

  • Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach has been giving electricity to the communities around it for over 16 years
  • In 1986 the plant started a commercial operation – Big Bend Unit 4
  • That year people started seeing manatees in large numbers in the power station’s discharge canal. This is where the saltwater – taken from Tampa Bay to cool Unit 4 – flowed, clean and warm, back to the bay.
  • When Tampa Bay reached 68 degrees or colder, the mammals would seek out this new refuge.
  • And that’s how the Manatee Viewing Center was soon born.
  • Today, Big Bend’s discharge canal is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary that provides critical protection from the cold for these beautiful, completely harmless animals.

Video Fun

Information for Visiting the Manatee View Center in Tampa

The center is much more than just watching the animals. There is also a great educational exhibit area where you can learn more in depth about these creatures.

Manatee Viewing Center - Tampa, Florida - Big Bend Plan

Also, if you’re up for a hike, there are several short, easy hiking trails to visit.

The best part of it all, it’s free!

NOTE – To get here you will need a car. It’s about a 20 minute drive outside of Tampa downtown area. Definitely worth the visit, especially if you have kids. 

Also, the center is only open when the Manatee are visiting which is usually during the winter months. It will be reopened again from October – March. 

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