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The St. Johns River The Intracoastal and Beyond

Manatee Encounter

On December 31, the last day of 2009, I saw the year out by going for a solo kayak ride on Crane Creek. It was the first warm day we'd had in a week or so, and colder weather was coming, so I wanted to get out while I could.

The manatee apparently felt the same way.

Crane Creek in Winter

Winter colors and still water set the scene for a beautiful day.

Crane Creek in Winter

We may not get the splashy fall colors they get up north, but a few maple trees add a touch of red and gold amongst the green and gray.

Crane Creek in Winter

There were lots of manatee in the quiet waters, enjoying the warmth while it lasted. There may have been 15-20 of them in this area. I sat still in one spot watching them for a long time.

Crane Creek in Winter

The longer I sat quietly, the more the manatee accepted my presence. They would come fairly close to the boat and check me out, then go on about their business.

There were a few who were more curious than the rest, coming close up to the side of my boat. One in particular started out by coming up and looking at me from underwater or going behind the boat to peek out at me. She did that for some time, then built up to swimming back and forth under my kayak.

I sat quietly, and after a while she came right up to the side of my boat and rolled over, as if inviting me to play. I actually caught that on the video! Check it out!

Then she started bumping and nudging my boat. Gently, but it was a little scary! If something startled her, my boat could go flying! She would rub up against the boat or go underneath and raise up a little under the back or front. If you look at the treeline in the video (right near the end), you can see where she turned my boat quite a bit, nudging it to the left.

I must have sat with the manatee for two or three hours. Every time I was ready to call it a day, one would do something interesting again and I would have to stay.

Manatee on Crane Creek

As I was finally heading in I took a photo of an osprey in a tree, then noticed a manatee laying up on the bank.

Manatee on BankI was worried that I would have to report a dead manatee. This guy was laying on his back with his flippers spread out and his head back and his belly up.

Then a fisherman came up the creek and the manatee rolled over and disappeared into the water.

He must have been sunbathing - as was an alligator I saw a short while later.

I haven't seen many alligators on Crane Creek - maybe five total, including the two I saw this day.

Alligator on BankThere was a small one up near the residential area, where I have seen two others. None of them have been very big, only four to five foot.

This one looked huge, maybe a 12-footer. I didn't get very close before he jumped into the water, and it's a shame I didn't have the camera set for video, because that would have been a great action shot. When the huge 'gator jumped in the water there was an equally huge manatee already there who made a really, really big splash getting away.

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