Manatees Crowd Three Sisters Springs
Cold water is driving hundreds of manatees to the warmth of Crystal River’s Three Sisters Springs, causing wildlife officials to randomly close the sanctuary to swimmers.
Manatees typically flock to the Crystal River/King’s Bay area because the water in its 70 springs maintains a comfortable 72 degrees year round, providing the largest winter refuge for manatees along Florida’s Gulf coast. As such, it’s one of the best places to view the gentle sea cows.
The manatees, which are on average 10 feet long and weight 1,500 pounds, can rest in these springs for weeks and weeks without food as long as long as they do not get too much disturbance from humans. Although they do often take a break from resting and cozy on up to people as they are curious creatures.
Normally, a limited number of visitors are allowed to swim with the manatees in Three Sisters, but Fish and Wildlife Service officials ban swimming at times when tidal flows and water visibility can affect the safety of the animals. Kayaks, paddle boards, and other watercraft are forbidden at all times in the springs.
Despite the swimming ban, visitors can still view the manatees from the Silver Springs boardwalk, which, starting February 13th, will charge a $15 viewing fee.