Travel Ideas

Jan 082015
 

On our first RV trip to Florida years ago we visited the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park and we’ve wanted to go back ever since. We’re running out of time this year and will be leaving soon, so yesterday seemed like a good day for another visit.

Homosassa Springs has been a tourist attraction since the late 1800s, thrilling tourists with exotic animals and native wildlife as an animal park under a series of owners, before becoming a State Park in 1989. Today the park is a refuge for injured animals ranging from bald eagles to manatee.

When we saw this eagle on our first visit years ago it was a youngster that had lost a wing after being shot. It was nice to see it has recovered well and adapted to life at the park.

Wheelchair accessible walkways meander through the park, where visitors can see alligators, flamingos, and even bobcats.

There are several bird exhibits, including burrowing owls (top) and crested caracara (bottom)

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This guy had just caught a fish for dinner.

The Reptile House is home to all matter of critters, from snakes to these baby alligators.

The most popular animals at the park are the manatee, and at any given time the park is home to a dozen or more that are there for rehabilitation for injuries, often suffered by strikes by boat propellers. During the winter the manatee population swells as more come in from the ocean seeking warmer water.

All of the animals at Homosassa Springs are native to Florida except for one; Lu the hippo. An African hippopotamus, Lu was part of the Ivan Tors Animal Actors, a traveling animal show that wintered at Homosassa Springs when it was a privately owned attraction. He appeared in the 1960s movies Daktari and Cowboy in Africa, and in several television shows. When the state took over the park they planned to move him to another facility, but Lu was so popular that instead, he was officially made a Florida resident with a proclamation by the governor.

Probably the most popular animal in the park, Lu even has his own Facebook page!

Just be sure to stay out of his “splatter zone!”

We’ll have a feature story on Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in a future issue of the Gypsy Journal.

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Jan 072015
 

We love exploring America’s back roads and small towns and finding overlooked gems that the tourist brochures never cover. In a new series of weekly blog posts, we will be sharing some of America’s lesser-known small town museums, historic sites, and oddball attractions, on a state-by-state basis. Calera: The Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum displays […]