Manatee Springs has a rich cultural history of occupation by Native Americans as far back as the paleo period over 10,000 years ago. It was visited in 1774 by William Bartram in his Travels of Florida and was named Manatee Springs by Bartram himself because of a manatee carcass present on the shoreline of the spring run. Hernando De Soto crossed the Suwannee River (San Juanee aka Little St. John) near Manatee Springs in his journey across the peninsula.
After the Seminole Wars, farmers and settlers moved in a farmed timber, pine tar/marine supply, cotton, corn, vegetables, fruit trees and food animals–pigs, chickens, cows, horses and mules.
As the area grew, local families moved “to town” only gathering at the spring to use it as a “Fishing Camp.” Manatee was the first spring to become a State Park in Florida back in 1954 when the family that owned it sold it to the state.