Atlantic Ocean: Body of salt water separating North America and South America from Europe and Asia.

Bay: A body of water mostly surrounded by land.

Blue Spring State Park: A Florida state park which includes the largest warm spring located along the St. Johns River. The park is a manatee refuge in the winter, which includes a growing population of West Indian Manatees. Since manatees are warm blooded, they need water temperatures of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit to stay alive. In the colder winter months the manatees migrate to Florida’s interior springs, which have warm, balmy 72 degrees Fahrenheit water all year long. Perfect for manatees!

Buoyancy: The process of a body to float or rise in water or fluid.

Cape Cod Bay: A body of water adjacent to the state of Massachusetts on its west. Cape Cod, Massachusetts borders its east and south, while Massachusetts Bay borders its north.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge: This impressive structure is considered one of the seven engineering wonders of the world. It opened on April 15, 1964. The bridge also has two tunnels and spans 17.6 miles. It stretches from Cape Charles, Virginia to Norfolk, Virginia. You can visit a restaurant and a gift shop there.

Crystal River: There’s only one place in Florida where you can swim with the manatees in the winter, and that’s Crystal River — located about 90 minutes north of Tampa, on the west coast of Florida.

The headwaters of Crystal River are known as Kings Bay, where the water temperature is a consistent 72 degrees year-round. During the winter months more than 400 manatees migrate here to escape the cold waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and each year some of them stay in the bay through the summer months. These migrating and resident manatees make Crystal River the perfect spot for you to get up close and personal with these gentle giants.

The West Indian manatees are very large aquatic mammals, weighing in around 1,000 pounds and measuring about 10 feet in length. They are docile, slow-moving swimmers that eat 10-15 percent of their body weight daily in aquatic plants. They often surface for air every 30 seconds while active and every 20 minutes while sleeping. Manatees have no natural enemies and the biggest threats to their survival are interactions with watercraft and loss of habitat. They were placed on the endangered species list in 1966 and have since been under close watch in order to ensure the survival of the species.

Crystal River is one of the only places in Florida where you’re legally permitted to swim with manatees in their natural habitat. You can embark on a swim tour through the river, but only after being briefed on all of the do’s and don’ts of interacting with the animals. Although manatees are very curious by nature and often initiate interaction with humans, they are heavily protected by law. Learning the manatee encounter rules and tips ensures that you have the best, and most rewarding experience possible while being a guest in their home.

Estuary: A body of water where the tide meets a river.

Herbivore: Manatees are herbivores! An herbivore is an animal that gets its energy from eating plants, and only plants. Herbivores need a lot of energy to stay alive. Many of them, like manatees, cows and sheep, eat all day long.

Hermit Crab: A variety of small crabs living in custom fitting shells which they find. As the crab grows, it looks for a larger shell to call its home.

Jacksonville, Florida: It’s the largest Florida city with approximately 1 million people. Miami is the second largest city and Tampa is the third largest city in Florida.

Lagoon: A shallow area of water, a pond, a channel, near a large body of water.

Mammal: Any type of warm-blooded vertebrates including human beings, along with other animals that feed their young with milk produced in mammary glands. They also have skin that can be covered with hair.

Manatee: A mammal living in tropical waters which eats only plants (herbivore). Manatees are sometimes referred to as sea cows. The West Indian manatee is divided into 2 subspecies, the Florida manatee and the Antillean manatee. The West Indian manatee belongs to the scientific order Sirenia.  Other sirenians include; the Amazonian manatee, the Dugong, the West African manatee, and the Steller’s sea cow which became extinct in 1768 from hunting it.

The average adult manatee is 10 feet long and weighs between 800 to 1,200 pounds. However, some can get as long as 13 feet and weigh 3,500 pounds!  Manatee births usually contain one calf. Its average weight is 66 pounds and its length is about of 47 inches. A manatee’s gestation period is about one year. A male manatee is called a “bull.” A female manatee is called a “cow.”

Manatee Lagoon: – An FPL Eco-Discovery Center, is a new, FREE Palm Beach County educational attraction with a dedicated area for viewing manatees up close. The 16,000-square-foot center features engaging, hands-on exhibits for visitors to learn all about these endangered and unique creatures as well as the natural wonders of the surrounding Lake Worth Lagoon. On cold winter days, the facility’s observation deck is the ideal spot to view manatee herds basking in the warm-water outflows from Florida Power & Light Company’s adjacent Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center.

Additional amenities include:

  • Free admission and parking
  • Multi-functional education center
  • Two levels of exhibit and observation areas*
  • Picnic area and pavilion
  • Gift store
  • Snacks and beverages available for purchase
  • Manatee webcam
  • Americans with Disability Act (ADA) accessibility

It’s a fun-filled flippers-and-whiskers learning experience for the entire family!

Manatee Viewing Center: Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach, Florida delivered reliable electricity to the community for 16 years before the commercial operation of Big Bend Unit 4 in 1986. That year, people started seeing manatees in large numbers in the power station’s discharge canal, where 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. 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 unique, gentle animals.

Meanwhile, as the Tampa Bay area is changing and growing, so too is Big Bend station, where Unit 1 will be converted from coal-fired to natural gas combined-cycle technology. This means cleaner land, air, and – with more than just the manatees in mind – water. One thing that won’t change is the clean, warm water that comes out of the power station into the discharge canal. The manatees are sticking around!

Inside the MVC’s environmental education building, colorful displays immerse you in the world of the manatee and its habitat. Others show how Big Bend Power Station generates electricity for the community in an environmentally responsible way. See some of the power station’s beneficially reusable byproducts. Inspect actual manatee bones and piece together puzzles. And before feeling the blast of a hurricane in the center’s simulator, find out more about hurricanes and how Tampa Electric prepares for and responds to major storms.

Marching Molars: Manatees have all molars as teeth. When they eat seagrass and other water plants, sand gets mixed in. As a result, the sand grinds down their front molars and they fall out. However, the molars in the back of their mouth actually move forward and replace the old molars. Scientists call this unique process “marching molars.”

Marine Mammals: Marine (water) mammals (breathes air) are found in marine ecosystems around the world. These are a diverse group of animals with unique physical adaptations, which allow them to thrive in the marine environment. Marine mammals are classified into four different taxonomic groups: cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walruses), sirenians (manatees and dugongs), and marine fissipeds (polar bears and sea otters). Florida designated the manatee its state marine mammal in 1975.

River: A body of streaming fresh water larger than a brook or creek.

Save the Manatee Club: Save the Manatee Club is an award-winning international nonprofit membership-based organization headquartered in Maitland, Florida. It was established in 1981 by renowned singer/songwriter, Jimmy Buffett and former U.S. Senator, Bob Graham, when he was governor of Florida. The club’s mission is to protect threatened manatees and their aquatic habitat for future generations.

Seagrass: Grass-like flowering plants living in submerged marine waters. There are 52 types of seagrass worldwide. Florida has 7 types of seagrass including; turtle grass, manatee grass, paddle-grass and star grass. The state has 2.2 million acres of seagrass.

Seahorse: A unique fish that has a horse-like face and swims upright. They are found in tropical and temperate waters. They are poor swimmers and attach their tail to underwater plants for stability. They range in size from 0.6 inches to 14 inches.

Shark: They’ve been here for 400 million years, even before dinosaurs. Sharks belong to the class of fish, Chondrichthyes. Most sharks are meat eaters (carnivores). They have the strongest jaws on the planet. Sharks can grow 20,000 teeth during their lifetime. The mako shark is probably the fastest swimming fish, clocked at 43mph. The most dangerous sharks are; the great white, the tiger shark, and the bull shark. The largest living shark is the whale shark at 50 feet long. The smallest shark is the dwarf lantern shark at about 7 inches long.

St. Johns River: The longest river in Florida, stretching 310 miles. It’s also one of a handful of rivers in the United States that actually flows north.