Tampa Electric Gives Visitors a Glimpse of Manatees
November 2019
In 1986, when Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station near Apollo Beach, Florida, began the commercial operation of Unit 4, people started seeing manatees in large numbers in the power station’s closed-loop discharge canal, where saltwater taken from Tampa Bay to cool the unit, flowed, clean and warm, back to the bay. When Tampa Bay’s weather dropped to 68 degrees or colder, the mammals would seek out this warm refuge. Soon, the Manatee Viewing Center (MVC) was born.

Today, Big Bend’s discharge canal is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary that provides critical protection from the cold for these beloved animals. Inside the MVC’s environmental education building, colorful displays immerse visitors into the world of the manatee and its habitat. Other displays show how Big Bend Power Station generates electricity for the community in an environmentally responsible way. Visitors also can learn more about how Tampa Electric prepares for and responds to hurricanes and other major storms before feeling the blast of a hurricane in the center’s simulator.

Halfway along the Manatee Viewing Center's habitat loop trail. a winding route through Florida, visitors will arrive at a boardwalk that takes them to the wildlife observation tower, which gives a marvelous view of the surrounding habitat and the estuary below from a 50-foot-high vantage point. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the tables at the base of the tower. And, on clear days, see all the way across Tampa Bay!

Built and located to minimize the impact on the environment, the tower, boardwalk, and habitat trail are part of a network of trails that will connect to the Florida Conservation and Technology Center, an under-construction project between Tampa Electric, the Florida Aquarium, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

To learn more about the MVC and for visitor tips, visit https://www.tampaelectric.com/company/mvc/​​​​