Camping at Manatee Springs State Park, Chiefland, Florida

April 30, 2024  •  1 Comment

Recently we completed our second RV camping trip.  This time we headed a little north to Chiefland, Florida taking our Bushwhacker Plus along with our dogs to enjoy a few days of nature.  Our destination? Manatee Springs State Park which is a beautiful park - the camp ground was great too!  This time we booked a campsite located in the Magnolia 2 loop.  These campsites include a 30amp electrical service, city water hookup and a picnic table.  Little warning? The 'cracks' between the boards on our picnic table were wide enough for our plastic ware to fall through - so be careful.  Next time, I will remember to put our picnic table cover over the table and avoid this little problem!

The Magnolia 2 loop is very shaded - we loved it.  As we began the process of setting up our RV and camp I noticed that in the empty campsite next to ours deer had wandered in.  Wow, forget camp, let's grab the camera.  Our dogs were tied to their 'dog post' and watched these deer probably in bewilderment that the deer were so close.  Jim kept saying, the dogs are thinking...."Don't they know we are dogs?"...I think the deer did, but they also knew that the dogs are not loose and couldn't get to them.

Deer at our campgroundDeer at our campgroundManatee Springs State park campground has deer visiting in mornings and evenings.


Our first campsite on the Magnolia 2 loop was #52.  This is considered to be an X-large campsite that allows for up to a 35' RV.  Since our Bushwhacker is about half that size, we had plenty of room which made it nice to have some space and not be right next to those camping in the next campsite.  Also, our dogs had a little more space to lay around while at camp.

Magnolia 2 Loop, campsite number 52Magnolia 2 Loop, campsite number 52Magnolia 2 Loop, campsite number 52 - our campsite

This time we had a piece of outdoor carpet by the door step - although, I saw a lot of other campers have a much larger one (maybe next time!).

Here's a map of the campground for those that might be interested - you will get a copy of this when you check in.  Important phone numbers are also provided for contacting the ranger should you have an issue requiring their attention (no water, no electricity, noisy neighbors).  Quiet hours at this campground are from 11pm - 7am.

We decided to stay an extra night, but had to move to another campsite within Magnolia 2 loop.  We moved to #46 because it allowed us to be at the end of the loop next to the 'swamp'.

Magnolia 2 - campsite #46Magnolia 2 - campsite #46Magnolia 2 - campsite #46

This campsite is 'large' but you can see it is still a nice size.  Just beyond our site is the swampy area that is currently holding water from the river flooding.  This campsite is a very short walk to the bath house (closer than our previous site).  We also had more deer visiting because it was at the end and quieter.

Just a note, in case you are curious.  We have Verizon for our cell phone service and we did have service through out most of the park and campground.  Using the internet was pretty slow but mostly worked for us.

The bath house for this loop was a short walk away and has 2 showers and 2 restrooms (at least in the women's side!).  

Magnolia 2 bath houseMagnolia 2 bath houseMagnolia 2 bath house  

One neat little thing they have that I really liked!  A "Pet hitchin post" - works great for when I was out walking the dogs and needed to make a stop. Rue and Abby hanging out while I took this photograph to show the hitchin post.

Dogs at the Pet Hitchin PostDogs at the Pet Hitchin PostDogs at the Pet Hitchin Post

I don't know what the cleaning schedule is for the bath houses at this park as they aren't posted like they were at Highlands Hammock State Park - but it appears to be in the afternoon hours because they had been cleaned when I stopped by in the early afternoon.  Considering the size of this campground and the size of the bath house I was surprised to find that it was not busy.  If you want to see a few photographs of the inside of the bath house make sure you click on the link at the end of the blog to see the additional photographs from our trip that aren't in this blog post.

If you are looking for a campsite that has it's own dump station, check out the Magnolia 1 loop.  When we took a quick look at those, they all appeared to have their own hookups.  There is a dump station that you can drive to (or take you portable holding tank) to between the campgrounds and the ranger station.  All of the dumpsters for other trash are located at the dump station.  If you want to take a short walk, head down the trail called "Deer Run" and it's a short cut, not along the road, to the dump station/trash bins.

Manatee Springs State Park - what is there to do?

  • Hiking on the trails
  • Biking on the trails
  • Swimming in the spring
  • rent a kayak
  • playground for the young at the day use area
  • Relax

As many of you know, we travel with our 3 dogs - Abby, Ollie and Rue so we didn't do some of the things that you can do.  We did hike the trails while Jim road his bicycle on the trails.  One thing to be careful of - there are ticks!  And they are small and plentiful at least at this time of year.  So beware, they warn you on the park information as well.

Hiking the trails

The dogs love walking on the trails - I think it ranks as their #1 thing to do when we go to the 'great outdoors'.  We drove a short distance to the "North End Trail" nature walk within the park.  There is a parking area off the main road at the trail head.  If you get the green brochure from the rangers office it shows you the various trails.  They have 8.5 miles of trails based on the trail map. 


The girls are ready to start their hike.

Rue, Ollie, Abby - Our DogsRue, Ollie, Abby - Our DogsOur dogs, ready to start their hike for the day.

We hiked about 2 miles on our first venture.  Our hike consisted of these trails, all connecting to each other to form a big loop.

  • Scenic Trail (.20 miles)
  • Loop Trail (.52 miles)
  • Scenic Trail (.42 miles)
  • Clay Trail (slightly over .21 miles)
  • Shacklefoot Trail (.86 miles) - make sure you turn left if you want to go back to the parking area

We didn't get a chance to do some of the other trails this trip, but hopefully we will be able to on a future trip.

Seminole Chickee HutSeminole Chickee HutSeminole Chickee Hut is a replica of a Seminole dwelling that is part of the park's history per the trail map.

We only saw a couple of people on the trails - so mostly it was us and nature.  We did find these little caterpillars in several different areas along the way.  A google search says this will become an echo moth.

The girls at the midpoint of our hike - ready for a break.  Please make sure you pack water for you and your pets as you may want it depending on how far you hike.

Abby, Rue and Ollie halfway through our hike.Abby, Rue and Ollie halfway through our hike.Abby, Rue and Ollie halfway through our hike.

Day use area and Manatee Springs swim area

The day use area is a very short walk from the Magnolia 2 campground (slightly further from Magnolia 1).  Within the day use area is a large parking lot.  Most days we were there, they didn't have many cars which meant we didn't have any large crowds.

The playground.....

Day use area playgroundDay use area playgroundDay use area playground

The springs were clear the first few days we were camping.  On the third day, the springs were closed due to 'brown out'.  Basically, this occurs when the Suwannee River is flooding (and it's still flooding now) and causes the murky, brown, water to come into the spring.  It's no longer clear and you can't see the fish and plant life.  Typically, it is 72 degrees and clear enough to see to the bottom.  The park indicated that they close the springs when it gets murky because the alligators will come into the spring and it becomes a safety issue.

The spring....

The steps to the spring are all under water at this point.  The flooding of the Suwannee river which is connected to the spring and not far away has caused the water to rise considerably.

The spring stepsThe springManatee spring at high water levels

Wildlife in the park

This park does have wildlife - with the most prominent being deer.  We saw deer passing through the area that we camped every day - usually in the morning hours - often early shortly after sunrise and then in the late afternoon.


We did see one very fat raccoon, but just once and it was running around near the bath house.  Thankfully for us, our dogs didn't see the racoon.

There is bird life - although many of the birds are small song birds, there are other birds as well.  I saw the large woodpecker in several areas and was able to get photographs of it.  The wood pecker that I saw is called a "Piliated woodpecker".  They appear to be about 10 inches or so being one of the largest (if not the largest) in our area of the country.  For those that are curious, I saw this woodpecker over in the 'dumpster/trash' areas when dumping our trash as well as along the swampy area that is near campsite #46.


Of course, there are the common gray squirrels hanging around - caught this one having a bite to eat by the spring.

Gray squirrel eating a nutGray squirrel eating a nutGray squirrel eating a nut

And the deer - we didn't see alligators, turtles or what not hanging at the spring but we didn't get a chance to swim in the spring as it went murky the day we planned to swim.

Other items to note

  • They do have a concession stand by the spring in the day use area. Typical hours are 10am - 4pm except during summer they are open slightly longer.  If you want ice, this is the only place within the park
  • Firewood is available at the ranger station (drive to it, short walk back to your car) or the concession stand (drive to the parking lot, have to carry the wood a good distance).
  • Firewood can not be brought in from other areas and they don't want you to collect wood within the park to burn either
  • Firewood is $10, must be exact change when we stayed here
  • Walmart is on US 19 just a little north of the street to turn for Manatee Springs State Park if you need just about anything else (Winn Dixie is there too)

More photographs

For more photographs from Manatee Springs State Park, please click here, Manatee Springs State Park.








Sue Mc Cart(non-registered)
Enjoyed the nature pictures especially the caterpillar soon to be a moth! Thanks for sharing!
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