Saturday, January 16, 2010

Manatees of Big Bend

Big Bend Power Plant  is a power plant in Apollo Beach on Tampa Bay, that is a winter haven for the Florida Manatee. It’s southeast of Tampa.
Map picture

It is a State and Federally designated Manatee Sanctuary. They try to educate people about the plight of the endangered Manatee and its habitat. During the center’s open season from November 1 to April 15, they have films, displays and other materials  to educate all the visitors. Center volunteers and staff,  answer questions and provide additional educational information.

“In addition to the manatee observation platforms, the center features a tidal walkway that takes visitors deep into a mangrove habitat. Hundreds of varieties of birds, fish and other animals thrive here.”

They have a  manatee museum where there are films about the manatee, Big Bend Power Station and the history of Tampa Electric. The center also features a gift shop, the South Shore Café, and a Web camera that is operation during the center’s open season.

“When Big Bend Power Station began producing power in 1970, it was a surprise to workers at the plant to see the manatees swimming into the canal in large numbers. Tampa Electric officials quickly realized the value the canal afforded the mammals, and, by 1986, the Florida legislature awarded the area official manatee sanctuary status. Federal status followed 16 years later. Since its inception, it has grown from a collection of observation platforms into its current 50-acre facility that has attracted more than 2.7 million visitors since it opened.”

When you drive up to the plant the first thing you notice is the big stacks spewing smoke and it seems like an environmental disaster.  The plant runs off coal, but has done a lot to limit their emissions and has gone through a lot of expense to make it safe for the Manatee to congregate there.  It’s a nice story about a big power plant making the effort to be a better neighbor to the people of Tampa and the environment.  There were stories years ago about Manatee getting caught in the warm water discharge of different power plants.  They have taken precautions so that they are safe and can’t get stuck in these areas.
P1140209 P1140226
This is a distance shot of the area. The darker spots you see are manatee.
This guy just kept his nose out of the water instead of staying down except to breathe like they normally do.
There are a lot of other fish, birds, and sharks swimming in these warm waters.
There were large spinner sharks jumping completely out of the water.  They were too fast for me though!

This is a spotted Ray, there were a lot of them and they frequently jumped completely out of the water.  I couldn’t quite catch them out of the water though!
They built a nice walkway through the Mangroves so you can get right up to the water.
It’s a pretty area and a great place to boat, fish, and kayak.
From the power plant we could see a lot of boats and some beach area. We decided to explore that.
more later…

When in the Tampa Bay area this is a great place to go and well worth the time.  There are not too many places that are completely free.  You could easily spend a few hours here.  We did it on a day where there were clear blue skies and temps in the mid 70’s.  Perfect weather!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent blog. Great photos. I will be seeing the manatees at the Tampa Electric station in Apollo Beach soon. All the best.


Please feel free to leave comments. We love to read them! To contact me directly you can send e-mail to