Each season, nearly 400,000 visitors are drawn to see the many manatees gathered in the warm waters of the Tampa Electric discharge canal.

The Manatee Viewing Center is the anchor attraction for the Florida Conservation and Technology Center (FCTC), which is a public-private partnership to showcase nature and technology. In addition to Tampa Electric, the partners include The Florida Aquarium and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

“We’re proud to be the showcase for Tampa Electric’s commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Stan Kroh, manager of Land and Stewardship Programs for Tampa Electric. “The Manatee Viewing Center proves that you can have fun while learning about the natural treasures of Florida.”

When the water temperature of Tampa Bay is 68 degrees or colder, manatees gather in the clean, warm water discharge canal of Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station, sometimes by the hundreds.

Manatee Viewing Center visitors can see the mammals up close from multiple boardwalks and vantage points. Visitors can also enjoy meeting the stingrays, critical animals that rely on a healthy Tampa Bay ecosystem, and even touch them gently as they glide past in the touch tank. Guests can hike the nature trail and take in the vistas from the 50-foot observation tower. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at a table near the base of the tower. To help support the manatee rescue and research efforts, be sure to stop at the gift shop on the way out.

The manatees have gathered in the canal to find refuge from the cold since the early 1970s. The Tampa Electric discharge canal is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary that provides critical protection from the cold for these unique, gentle animals. Each season, the center draws nearly 400,000 visitors — for a total of 7 million.

Admission and parking at the Apollo Beach facility are free, and the boardwalks are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act for our guests’ convenience. Contributions are welcomed and will directly support protecting manatees, preserving their habitats and educating the public.

The Manatee Viewing Center’s regular hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. every day now through April 15, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. (The facility closes at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve.) Comfortable shoes and clothing are recommended. Please note that no pets are allowed, only trained service animals.

Visit the center online at www.tampaelectric.com/manatee or call 813-228-4289 for more information.

Tampa Electric, one of Florida’s largest investor-owned electric utilities, serves about 800,000 customers in W. Central Florida. Tampa Electric is a subsidiary of Emera Inc., a geographically diverse energy and services company headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

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