Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

C.M. Pic #43This last unspoiled and undeveloped habitat in Kings Bay, the headwaters of the Crystal River, is critical for protection of the West Indian Manatee. The springs in the bay, with their constant 72 degree Fahrenheit water, provide essential warm water refuge for the manatees that congregate there in the winter months.

There are about 30 known springs in all of Kings Bay. The primary springs within the wildlife refuge are Idiots Delight, Three Sisters, and the King Springs group, which includes Tarpon Hole, Mullet’s Gullet, and Little Hidden springs. Three Sisters springs is the only one accessible by land; all of the others are boat accessible only. The land around Three Sisters was acquired in 2010 and is currently open to the public only on certain dates.

In adherence to the mission of protecting and preserving the manatee and its habitat, the areas around the springs have been designated Manatee Sanctuaries and are closed to all humans from November 15th through March 31st. Visitors can still visit and view the manatees in their natural setting, however, from boats or in the water outside of those sanctuary boundaries. Many dive shops and marinas in the Town of Crystal River offer manatee tours and cater to the needs of divers and snorkelers. The refuge office also provides information on current manatee activity and other local wildlife, in addition to a gift shop and picnic tables overlooking the bay.

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