Friday, August 4, 2023

Best activation yet: Manatee Springs State Park (FL) with KX3 (video)

If you ever find yourself summering in Florida, cooking and baking in the August heat - here's my recommendation: avoid the many beaches, avoid Disney at all costs and head for the nearest freshwater spring.

There are many...all in central and northern Florida.

I've been to 5 of them and the best of that small bunch is Manatee Springs near the town of Chiefland, 45 minutes or so west of Gainesville.

Manatee, like all other springs in the state, has a constant water temperature of 72F/22C, which feels like ice water. That water bubbles to the surface at the rate of 50-150 million gallons of water per day, forming a habitat for turtles, fish, gators and manatees. Think of a small volcano that spews cool, fresh, clear water, 24/7. That's Manatee Springs, 40 feet down.

At Manatee and a few other springs, it has also formed an underwater cave system.

The water is as clear as tap water and is absolutely surreal to view the first time you see such a place. After over a year in Florida, I'm still amazed at the beauty of places like this - even after multiple visits to the same springs.

You're walking along a trail, then - there it is: the water. It looks 2 feet deep at most, but you step in and it's up to your chin. Just amazing.

My previous favorite, Alexander Spring, is currently closed due to alligator activity in the swimming area, so I rode to this one instead. Twice as far from my house but well worth the extra miles on a beautiful Florida morning. Traffic (if you can call it that) was almost non-existent, the roads were good and the bike ate up the miles like candy.

The KX3 was packed, along with its friends: paddles, 17-ft whip and 3AH battery.

Verizon gave me one bar of signal; enough to eventually eke out a self-spot on the POTA website.

A page of contacts - on an increasingly sunny and hot morning - went into the log, and then the spring beckoned.

A four-foot gator reminded me that I was not alone, nor was I at the top of the food chain in these parts. We kept our distance as I kept an eye out for his Mom or Pop. All was well and I returned home with all my parts, radio and otherwise.

Later, a manatee swam by - a rare site this time of year. They flock to these springs by the dozens in winter months but summer usually finds them elsewhere, away from human witnesses. This was a young feller, swimming up the the spring's headwaters from the Suwanee River, just down the way. A skinny one, too - hope he was ok.

The KX3 did well, consuming only 500 mAH from the battery, even though I had the output set for 15 watts and operated for 45 minutes. US, Canada, Italy and Sweden were worked.


Directly on YouTube




  1. Nice to work you DE W0HL

  2. What kind of key is that? Looks very solid. DE W0HL