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Blue Springs State Park
St. Johns River, Florida
December 22, 2016

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We started our vacation with a rare outing "off property," an hour or so up the highway to Blue Springs State Park, where dozens of manatees were spending a warm and quiet winter's day, floating and rolling in the cool waters of St. John's River.

Until that day, our best view of sea cows had been in the rather small tank in Epcot where two damaged (but lovable) manatees tussle each other in between taking bites of the romaine lettuce their keepers toss to them.

At Blue Springs, they swim in luxurious expanse, oblivious to the occasional gator hiding at the water's edge or the tourists ogling them from the raised walkways.

The big white house belonged to the family that ran the site as a riverboat stop and tourist swim spot before it became a state park. And that big hill the house sits on? It's an old shell mound, built up from centuries of the Indians tossing shells onto a heap near the river. The dirt is full of shells. Amazing testimony to the amount of time they were here before white people arrived.