Since Teco Tampa Electric’s  Big Bend Power Plant at Apollo Beach opened in 1986, manatees have been congregating in the plant’s canals.

The canals are where clean, warm saltwater (used to cool Big Bend’s Unit 4) taken from Tampa Bay, is pumped back into the ocean. 

A common phenomenon along Florida’s coast, manatees seek out warm waters when their usual grazing waters drop to 68°F or lower. In temperatures below 68°F, the gentle “sea cows” could become sick and even die.

On your next Tampa vacation don’t miss your chance to see some of the country’s most beautiful scenery, easily accessed in your FL van rental.

Big Bend’s discharge canal is now known as the MVC (Manatee Viewing Center) and is a state and federally protected manatee sanctuary. Free to the public from November 1st through April 15th, visitors can come see these elusive sea creatures and traverse MVC’s “Tidal Walk”.

Tidal Walk

Along the Tidal Walk you’ll encounter not just manatees but also other coastal animal residents and gorgeous Florida vegetation. 


  • Manatees (obviously)
  • Raccoons
  • Ibis
  • Heron


  • Cabbage Palm: Florida’s state tree
  • Buttonwood: A native Floridian tree that can grow as tall as 30 feet
  • Mangrove Forest: Three types of native mangrove trees inhabit this region; red, black, and white

As you walk along this trail, you’ll encounter a cross-section of different Florida ecosystems such as the upland habitat, mangrove forest, coastal berm, shoreline habitat, and the Tampa Bay Estuary.

Admission: Free

Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Daily

Open November 1st – April 15th


6990 Dickman Rd

Apollo Beach, FL 33572

This great location for animal lovers is just a rental van drive away. On your next Tampa vacation, travel with Florida’s best transportation provider, Carl’s Rental Vans. Contact us and make a reservation for one of our spacious vans on your next Florida vacation.