Of course, everyone associates Weeki Wachee Springs with mermaids, but there is a lot more to say about it. And I will mention the mermaids.
The world-famous tourist attraction was started by Newt Perry in 1947. Newt was an underwater frogman during WWII, and after the war he started working with film and movies, doing underwater stunt scenes in the freshwater Florida springs. He developed an underwater breathing system for the mermaids at the springs, which is still in use today. Newt did many famous films here, at Silver Springs in Ocala, and Wakulla Springs south of Tallahassee.
For my Seminole War researchers who like the few Seminole War “spaghetti Westerns,” then you may have seen “Distant Drums.” For underwater stunts, Newt did the underwater fight scene in the finale between Cary Grant and the Seminole Chief in “Distant Drums.” It is obvious that it is Newt underwater, unless the Seminole chief suddenly bulked up.
For many years, the attraction at Weeki Wachee was in danger of closing down. But last year it became a Florida state park. So right now it is still in a transition stage.
I have to admit that I love freshwater springs, and have swam in many of them in Florida. Growing up as a kid in Florida, it is just in my nature to jump in the water.
Weeki Wachee is a first magnitude spring, and pumps anywhere from 1 to 1.7 million gallons of water a day. Here is the springhead, with the underwater theater to the right, and highway 19 in the background.
Open in the summer, is the Buccaneer Bay water attraction, which closed for the season on October 1st.
Newt taught his mermaids well, and after more than 60 years since the park attraction opened, and about 15 years after Newt's death, they still do the same underwater stunts. Not every girl can be a mermaid, because they have a grueling training where they learn to hold their breath underwater for 2.5 minutes, and a few of the girls can dive down to the bottom of the spring, an impressive 120 feet below the surface.
And interesting thing to see during the show, were all the slider turtles that were real friendly with the mermaids. For decades, the mermaids have released food for the fish, and the turtles help themselves, too. An interesting thing is that when the ladies changed and were doing the acrobatic swimming without the tails, the turtles were nowhere to be seen. Apparently the turtles associate mermaids with giving them treats, and don't bother with the regular humans with no tails and two legs. I think turtles are smarter than we give them credit for. Here one of the mermaids smiles and gently lifts the fawning turtles out of the way.
Also take the river cruise. This is a guided tour down the Weeki Wachee River. The trip goes down about ½ mile and returns. (No, not in this boat here; a bigger pontoon boat.)
And also of interest, is an Indian mound just above where you embark on the river cruise. A plaque says that there were mass graves here, and items crafted from Spanish artifacts, so this mound shows contact with the first Europeans, maybe Narvaez or deSoto. And then mass burials because of a sudden large loss of the village population; either from disease or warfare with the Spaniards.
Was Weeki Wachee worth the few hours I visited? It certainly was!
Next: Homosassa Springs and Rosie the Manatee puts on a show for some great underwater pics.