Many of Levy County’s cities closely identify with some sort of natural attraction or history that draws many visitors every year. This area depends economically, in part, to these parks and historic places. Visiting the area is not only a trip back into nature, but also a walk back in time. Chiefland is considered the home of Manatee Springs State Park, one of the best natural parks in the state. The park draws numerous visitors and local residents to its tranquil springs and riverbanks. Tourists can dive in the crystal clear springs, canoe or boat down the Suwannee River, hike through its shaded natural trails, and observe wildlife including manatees, deer, and a variety of wading and song birds. For just a nominal fee, spend a wonderful day with Mother Nature.
Just a short drive away is Fanning Springs State Park. Located in northern Levy County, this park attracts many visitors a year, who journey from far and wide to bask in the cool clear springs and picnic on the shores while observing manatees, woodpeckers, and wading birds. Admission is only one dollar, so be sure to make Fanning Springs a stop in your visit to the Chiefland area.
To the west of Chiefland is the Lower Suwannee Wildlife Refuge. The park, encompassing 52,935 acres of land from both Levy and Dixie counties, is a perfect place to spend a lazy, peaceful morning or afternoon. Float up the Suwannee River, taking in all of nature’s beautiful vegetation and wildlife. Both saltwater and freshwater fishermen can appreciate the river with its freshwater and salt marshes and tidal flats. Boaters can appreciate the river’s gentle current. Wildlife enthusiasts can relish in the bald eagles, swallow-tailed kites, turtles, alligators and occasional bottlenose dolphin around Suwannee Sound. Here, there is something for everyone to enjoy. From the refuge, make your way over to Cedar Key. Cedar Key is one of the last surviving “frontier villages.” Rich in history and natural splendor, Cedar Key is a prime tourist spot. The area’s delectable seafood and shellfish are world-renowned, as are the historic shops and the 81,000 acres of wildlife refuge surrounding the town. Wetlands extend along the Suwannee River banks and out into the Gulf of Mexico. Guided nature tours are available, so don’t forget the camera! Glimpse frigate birds and ospreys, spoonbills, and perhaps even a flock of the rare white pelicans.
Seahorse Key is a unique island that comprises Cedar Key. A huge sand dune left by retreating glaciers, this island boasts the highest point on the Gulf coast at 52 feet above sea level. One can still see shell middens left by those occupying the island more than 2,000 years ago. There are many such islands to explore in the Cedar Key area that provide equally magnificent natural and historical experiences for tourists to discover.
For more information about:
Manatee Springs State Park, call (352) 493-6072
Fanning Springs State Park, call (352) 463-4520
Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, call (352) 493-0238
Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge, call (352) 493-0238
Nature Coast Coalition