Crystal River is home to the Florida subspecies of the West Indian Manatee, a large herbivorous mammal that grazes in our bay during the summer months and migrates in large numbers to our warm spring waters in winter.
During winter months, these gentle giants take advantage of the warm springs in Kings Bay to survive the colder ocean waters. The optimum time to find the large herds congregating in the crystal clear springs is when the Gulf of Mexico drops below 68 ° F/20 ° C, which is too cold for them to survive for a long period of time. In contrast, the springs flow at a constant 72 ° F/22 ° C - warm enough for the population to avoid Cold Stress Syndrome.
Citrus County in Florida is the only place in America where you can legally swim with the manatees. This activity is highly restricted elsewhere, although they can be spotted along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico (as far west as Texas) and on the east coast (the most northerly documented sighting being Massachusetts).
In the 1970s, the West Indian Manatee were placed on the endangered species list. Due to extensive conservation efforts, they were removed from this list and reclassified as threatened. Their population had rebounded from several hundred to over six thousand.
Some Manatee facts
During Manatee Season, Three Sisters Springs is closed to kayaking.
You can tie up your paddlecraft at a designated area near the entrance to swim inside, but please be aware that USFWS may temporarily close the springs to swimmers as well.
Manatees can be seen here year round.
We have a resident population that can be seen in the bay during the warmer months.
For an up-to-date reading of the temperature in the Gulf of Mexico, click this link and be taken to the US Geological Survey website page.
In addition to the above prohibited activities, the following waterborne activities are prohibited within Three Sisters Springs from November 15th to March 31st:
Paddle craft are prohibited from Three Sisters Springs from November 15th through March 31st, or later if emergency closures are in place.