A visit to Homosassa would be incomplete without a visit to the wonderful Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park! With over 210 acres and a 45 foot deep natural spring which forms the headwaters of the beautiful Homosassa River you will have a full afternoon experiencing all that is wonderful about Florida Wildlife.
Started as a petting zoo in 1924. The property changed hands and direction many times but in 1984 was purchased by Citrus County and in now owned by the state of Florida. All exotic animals and non-native plants have been removed to restore the park to the Real Florida. Only 1 exotic animal remains, Lucifer the 46 year old hippo that was granted honorary citizenship after hundreds of school children protested his removal from the park.
There is a 180 ton floating underwater observatory, also known as the “Fish Bowl” and the story of its installation I will leave for you to discover when you are visiting! This is a wonderful place to view manatees and a number of salt and freshwater fish that call the spring home.
The main attraction is the animals. This is one of the few places in the world where you can see Red Wolves as wild populations were eliminated in the 1960′s and are now only being sustained by captive populations.
You will also find Whooping Cranes, Panther, Burrowing Owls, Key Deer, alligators, crocodiles, snakes and so many more. All the animals here have all been relocated and unable to be released in the wild for any number of reasons. Some have been injured, others displaced and have lost their fear of humans. Do not mistake the park for a zoo, it is the only place these animals can call home as they would have to of been put down if there was not a facility like this for them to be rehabilitated and cared for. The park also serves as a rehabilitation and refuge center for injured West Indian manatees. Many othermanateesprefer to spend the winter months around these constant temperature springs of the Homosassa River. In the cold winter months you will find hundreds of them here in the spring.
Birds are also a big attraction here! Bald Eagles, Caracara, hawks, owls, aquatic birds, shorebirds and yes the Endangered Whooping Cranes! The photo opportunities are just incredible and your junior photographer will come away with amazing photos! Many professionals come here to get wonderful close up shots of these magnificent creatures.
The park is open to visitors every day of the year 9am-5:30 pm. There are interpretive programs offered throughout the day. Admission rates are more than fair at $13 for adults and $5 for kids 6-12 (kids under 5 years old are free). You can also purchase your State Park Passport here or get the one you have stamped! From Hwy 19 you can pass through the visitors center and take the free 20 min boat ride to the park entrance. This is a great way to see many native plants and birds before you even get to the park! Please do not forget to visit the gift shop or get an ice cream in the concession area before you leave!
Click here for directions: Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Click here for the official:Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park Brochure
Florida State Park Website:http://www.floridastateparks.org/homosassasprings/aboutthepark.cfm
For more photos of our trip please visit:http://notaclueadventuresphotos.shutterfly.com/pictures/654
In closing this is a wonderful place for you and your children to learn more about Florida wildlife! Take an afternoon and visit – you will not be disappointed!