Manatees of the Ocklawaha River, Florida
An Information, Opinion, & Sources Report
Compiled by Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca
With the assistance of A Cruising Down the River Captain Erika Ritter
Original Article Posted to Internet: 21 July 2011
This Webpage Created: 20 November 2011
This Webpage Last Revised: 28 October 2016
NOTE: Some of the credible written works by others (i.e., magazine/newspaper articles, web pages, etc.) that are referenced in this report
would not be considered "peer-reviewed" scientific documentation.
Click-on individual photos to enlarge them!
MANATEE sightings during 2016 in the middle Ocklawaha River (that we actually witnessed)
10-24-16: A single manatee (an adult with a prop-scarred back moving downstream) was seen by Ocklawahaman at 1245 hrs EDT within river mile 46.
7-6-16: A single manatee (a juvenile moving upstream) was seen by Ocklawahaman at 1520 hrs EDT within river mile 36.
5-17-16: THREE manatees (moving downstream) were seen by Ocklawahaman at 1540 hrs EDT within river mile 36.
MANATEE sightings during 2015 in the middle Ocklawaha River (that we actually witnessed)
5-18-15: THREE manatees (moving upstream) were seen by Ocklawahaman at 1700 hrs EDT within river mile 35.
MANATEE sightings during 2015 in the Upper Ocklawaha River Basin of Lake County that we are aware of
4-7-15: Reliable sources have reported the sightings of at least TWO manatees in Lake County, Florida lakes connected to the Upper Ocklawaha Basin.
MANATEE sightings during 2014 in the middle Ocklawaha River (that we actually witnessed)
6-12-14: SIX manatees (4 adults & 2 calves/juveniles) were seen by Ocklawahaman at 1800 hrs EDT within river mile 35.
NOTE: From that day's photos that I emailed to the Save The Manatee Club, the USGS has tentatively identified two manatees: (1) BS336, Snorty a.k.a. Dragon and (2) BS558, Duke.
6-10-14: A single manatee was seen by Ocklawahaman at 0940 hrs EDT within river mile 34.
2014-06-12 1806 hrs EDT
MANATEE sightings during 2013 in/near the Eureka (river mile 33) area of the Ocklawaha River (that we actually witnessed)
4-23-13: A single manatee was seen by Ocklawahaman.
11-25-13: A single manatee was seen by Captain Erika Ritter & Mrs. Connie Mercer (with her two nephews).
2013-04-23 1539 hrs EDT
2013-04-23 1558 hrs EDT
MANATEE sightings during 2012 in/near the Eureka (river mile 33) area of the Ocklawaha River (that we actually witnessed)
5-23-12: A single manatee was seen by Captain Erika & Mr. Frank Pattie.
5-30-12: A single manatee was seen by Ocklawahaman (there may have been a second smaller manatee also).
5-31-12: Two manatees (an adult & a juvenile) were seen by both Captain Erika & Ocklawahaman.
6-24-12: A single manatee was seen by Captain Erika (& her 6 passengers) during T.S. Debby rains.
9-5-12: A single manatee was seen by Ocklawahaman, Captain Erika, & Mr. Frank Pattie.
10-2-12: A single manatee was seen by Ocklawahaman.
Report Manatee Injuries:
Provided by Save The Manatee Club
Signs (with wording very similar to the paragraph just above) were posted at the Kenwood, Paynes Landing, Eureka East (CR-316),
Eureka West (CR-316), Gores Landing, & Rays/Ocala Boat Basin (SR-40) boat ramps in June 2012. They were requested by Capt. Erika Ritter.
Captain Erika Ritter & Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca had the rare opportunity to observe as many as five Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) together in the middle Ocklawaha River near Eureka during the last couple weeks of April 2011. The Eureka area is about 33 river miles upstream from the St. Johns River & about 21 river miles upstream from the Kirkpatrick (Rodman) Dam. Manatees -- probably including these five & maybe even a couple more -- were also reportedly seen up to 23 miles further upriver at Silver Springs (which is the 73-degree F supreme headwater of the Ocklawaha) or the Silver River during several different months of 2011.
Additional observations of one or two manatees at a time have been reported occasionally by Ritter, Nosca, & others from 2008 to 2011 along the middle Ocklawaha River & Silver River.
Manatee sightings near Eureka in 2011 began about March 6th & continued sporadically until approximately November 2nd. By the beginning of March or November in that year, the daily average water temperature for this segment of the mainstream Ocklawaha had reached some 70 to 72 degrees F -- the river's flow having either just warmed or cooled from where it had been for the previous couple of months.
Manatees apparently are able to swim upstream without any great difficulty against the swift 1-mph current of the middle Ocklawaha River. An experienced canoeist or kayaker paddling their watercraft cannot follow manatees that are traveling upriver without soon falling far behind. The manatees appear to move, unhurriedly, towards the current at perhaps 4 to 5 mph. Maximum upstream speed of a man-powered canoe or kayak on the middle Ocklawaha is about 3 mph.
One of the five manatees seen in April 2011 was "Bertram" who is identifiable by his number 47 freeze-brand. He has an interesting life history to read about which is available online. In short, "Bertram" is about 20 years old & has been taken out of the St. Johns River Basin at least twice for "rehab" at Sea World near Orlando. "Bartram" is the name of his twin brother.
"Ocklawaha River, Florida: In April of this year, Paul R. Nosca and Captain Erika Ritter spotted five manatees on the Ocklawaha River, which flows north from central Florida until it joins the St. Johns River near Palatka. They reported that the manatees were feeding and swimming for about an hour and that one of them had a #47 tattoo. Adoptive parents of Phyllis from Blue Spring will be delighted to know that #47 is Bertram, one of her two twins born in 1991."
In order for them to migrate upstream on the Ocklawaha River, manatees have to enter Rodman Reservoir via the Cross Florida Barge Canal through the Henry H. Buckman Lock (lock tender phone# 386-329-3575) which reopened for navigational & manatee safe passage in 2005. Florida Department of Environmental Protection lock tender employees at Buckman manually record both IN & OUT the amount of migrating manatee individuals during the year. This maintained written log of manatee traffic is not computerized as of latest communication.
It could be presumed that manatees might traverse the Cross Florida Barge Canal anytime that the water temperature is maybe 72 degrees F or warmer. In 2012 the water temperature of the adjacent St. Johns River first increased to about 72 degrees F near the middle of March.
NOTE: Daily & recent water temperatures of the St. Johns River just downstream of the mouth of the Cross Florida Barge Canal (which leads to the Buckman Lock) can be read at the webpage of the "USGS 02244040 ST. JOHNS R AT BUFFALO BLUFF NEAR SATSUMA, FL" stream-flow gage:
You may have to enter a new "Begin date" & "End date" at that webpage!
"CAUTION MANATEE AREA" sign at the eastern (to St. Johns River side) approach to Buckman Lock
East gate (to St. Johns River side) of Buckman Lock
A renown Pulitzer prize winning newspaperman & outdoors writer, who passed away in 2009, had been quoted by proponents of retaining Rodman Reservoir (in their introductory newsletter which is available as a hardcopy) as having written:
"The tiny trickle of the old Oklawaha would have barely covered the backs of some of the 13-foot, 3000 pound manatees."
"They would be easy victims of many accidental manatee deaths from any outboard boat that tried to navigate the river. They better stay in the big water."
Although manatees seem to be warmly clothed in whale-like blubber, they in fact require small protected waters of 68 degrees F & warmer such as natural artesian springs & spring runs for survival during the winter.
Laist, D.; C. Taylor; & J. Reynolds (2013): http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0058978
The manatee is listed as an "endangered species" & is fully protected under both federal & state law.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) spreadsheet file of Ocklawaha River / Rodman Reservoir manatee sightings from 1974 into 2012:
NOTE: This spreadsheet is available for viewing at the bottom of this webpage.
Callahan, J. 2010. "Students get eyeful of sea cow at Silver River" article. Ocala Star-Banner newspaper (3 June 2010) that is available on an Ocala.com webpage. Ocala, FL.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). 2000. "Sea stats: manatees, Florida's gentle giants" pamphlet. Florida Marine Research Institute (St. Petersburg, FL), FWC, Tallahassee (TAL), FL. Available as a hardcopy.
Habitat Working Group. 2007. Historical manatee habitat of the Ocklawaha River and effects of proposed restoration on manatee use; a white paper prepared by the Habitat Working Group. The Habitat Working Group, a subgroup of the Florida Manatee Recovery Team.
Available as a "Microsoft Word" document.
Hamaker, E. 1987. "Manatee sightings raise eyebrows at attraction" article. Ocala Star-Banner newspaper (4 July 1987, page 1A). Ocala, FL.
Laist, D.; C. Taylor; & J. Reynolds. 2013. Winter habitat preferences for Florida manatees and vulnerability to cold. PLOS ONE 8(3): e58978. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058978. http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0058978
Muller & Associates, Inc. 2007. Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway management plan (15 June 2007). Prepared with Office of Greenways & Trails, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), TAL, FL.
Nosca, P. 2016. "The Springs of the Ocklawaha River, Florida: From Rodman Dam Upstream to Eureka Dam (River Miles 12 to 33)" webpage report. "Ocklawahaman" website. Paul Nosca, Eureka, FL.
Ritchie, B. 1995. "Another dead manatee found near dam" article. Gainesville Sun newspaper (25 August 1995, page 3B). Gainesville, FL.
Save The Manatee Club. 2011. "Meet the manatees: Bertram and Bartram; first recorded twins at Blue Spring State Park" article. Save The Manatee Club webpage. Maitland, FL.
Smith, K. 1997. The effects of proposed restoration of the Ocklawaha River in the vicinity of the Rodman basin on manatees and manatee habitat; report for the Office of Greenways & Trails (July 1997). Prepared for Office of Greenways & Trails, FDEP, TAL, FL.
Thompson, P. et al. 2008. Petition for a rule to revise critical habitat for the Florida manatee, Wildlife Advocacy Project, Save the Manatee Club, Center for Biological Diversity, & Defenders of Wildlife (19 December 2008).
USFWS. 2010. 12-month finding on a petition to revise critical habitat for the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Issued 12 January 2010. North Florida Ecological Services Office webpage, USFWS.
USFWS. 2012. "Sightings 1974 - 2012" [Rodman Reservoir manatees] online spreadsheet report. USFWS field office (10 August 2012), Jacksonville, FL. Available for viewing at the bottom of this webpage.
Williams, T. 2012. "Has one Florida dam's day finally come?" webpage article. Audubon Magazine (July-August 2012). National Audubon Society, NY, NY.
Old GRAPHIC Photos of MANATEE (Sea Cow) Hunting
(Before it became illegal)
From the "FLORIDA MEMORY COLLECTION" ARCHIVES:
REFERENCE AS: Nosca, P. 2016. "Manatees of the Ocklawaha River, Florida" webpage report. "Ocklawahaman" website. Paul Nosca, Eureka, FL.