Homosassa Springs

Useful Information

Location: 4150 S Suncoast Blvd, Homosassa, FL 34448.
On Highway 98 north of Tampa.
(28.799302, -82.588269)
Open: All year daily 9-17:30, last entry 16:45.
Fee: Adults USD 13, Children (6-12) USD 5, Children (0-5) free.
Classification: KarstKarst Spring
Light: n/a
Dimension: L=1.770 m, Twater=23 °C.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Homosassa Springs Visitor Center, 4150 S Suncoast Blvd, Homosassa, FL 34448, Tel: +1-352-423-5564.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1900 train station opened.
1920s public swimming area created.
1940s first underwater observatory opened.
1964 property purchased by the Norris Development Company and entertainment facilities and animal exhibits added.


Homosassa Springs is located at the homonymous village Homosassa Springs, Florida. The spring, the river, and the surrounding wetland are a park called Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park with an area of The Main Entrance of the park is at Highway 98 and has a jetty on Pepper Creek, from here visitors can either walk 1,2 km through the forest or take a boat on Pepper Creek to the West Entrance on Fishbowl drive. Around the West Entrance there are about half a dozen karst springs, the biggest and most productive is Homosassa Spring. Springs Loop is a circular walk - actually a huge eight - with an Underwater Observatory, the Garden of the Springs and a sort of Wildlife Zoo. It is one of the best sites in Florida to see manatees. Pepper Creek flows into Homosassa River, a huge stream which flows through Homosassa and then branches out into a marshy and swampy area which is quite typical for Florida. This area is another park called Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, and 12 km from the springs Homosassa River meets the sea.

The indigenous people lived at the spring long before the Europeans arrived. As a result of their arrival the locals were decimated by disease and in fights with the colonists. The area was resettled by several groups of Native Americans displaced from other areas, including the Seminoles and Miccosukee.

The tourism at the spring started around 1900, when a train station was opened close to the spring. It was actually built for the transport of spring water, cedar, crabs, and fish. People used the railroad to see the spring, which was accessible on a short trail. In the 1920s a public swimming area was created at the spring and the number of visitors increased. In the 1940s the first underwater observatory was opened, an iron tank with small windows on each side. Major development followed the purchase of the property by the Norris Development Company in 1964. They added entertainment facilities and animal exhibits. Ivan Tors Animal Actors trained animals for TV and film, the most famous was Buck, a bear which appeared on the TV show Gentle Ben. They housed their trained animals at Homosassa Springs Attraction for several years. Another famous animal of them was Lu, a hippopotamus born at the San Diego Zoo in 1960, which appeared in the TV shows Daktari and Cowboy in Africa. Living at the park since 1964 she is the only animal in the park not native to Florida, the oldest hippopotamus in North America, and was declared an honorary citizen of Florida by Governor Lawton Chiles in the 1990s.

After the land changed owners several times between 1978 and 1984, the state of Florida planned to purchase the property to create a Florida State Park. They did not have enough money at that time, so it was purchased by the Citrus County Commission and later sold to the state of Florida. It was named in honor of Elmyra Felburn Schiller (*1943–✝2009), a benefactor of the Florida state park system. UNlike many othe springs in Florida this spring is not used for bathing or kayaking. It is a wildlife reserve and home to black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, American alligators, and river otters. But most famous is the group of West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) living in the spring, large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals, which are also known as sea cows. They are up to 4 m long, weigh up to 600 kg. They have paddle-like tails and look a little like dolphins with the nose of a cow. As a result of the destruction of their habitats by man, they are listed by the World Conservation Union as vulnerable to extinction. The Florida manatees are in danger of extinction because of a massive die-off of seagrass along the Atlantic coast. In early 2022 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a feeding program to address the situation.