Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is the only refuge in the country created specifically for the protection of the Florida Manatee. It protects the spring-fed headwaters of Crystal River around Kings Bay including King Spring and Three Sisters Springs. The near constant temperature of the spring water, even in winter time, provides critical habitat for the manatee population. The area is estimated to be home to as many as 600 manatees in the winter.

The refuge covers 177 acres, including a number of islands in and around Kings Bay. The entirety of Kings Bay is also protected as a Federal Manatee Refuge. And portions of the off-shore areas around the islands are considered a Federal Manatee Sanctuary. The lands of the refuge are only accessible by kayak or boat, except for the area that includes Three Sisters Springs, and a small parcel for a visitor center and parking area. Note that in early 2018, the visitor center was closed due to damage from a recent hurricane.

Land side access to Three Sisters Springs is managed by the City of Crystal River. They operate a Three Sisters Springs Center behind the courthouse at 2nd Avenue and U.S. 19 where you may purchase tickets to access the springs property. A trolley bus is provided for transportation to the Spring, as well as several other points of interest.  A boardwalk partially circles the spring and allows up close views of the manatees. There are also some nature trails.

The refuge does not provide any facilities for launching boats or kayaks. But there are a number of access points around Kings Bay in the vicinity of downtown Crystal River. Kayak access to Three Sisters Springs may be limited at times during the winter months when a large number of manatees are present. An area at the mouth of the spring may also be cordoned off from watercraft so manatees will not feel threatened.
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