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Three Sisters Springs Manatees

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Three Sisters Springs Crystal River Florida
Manatee Heaven Three Sisters Springs Crystal River Florida

Three Sisters Springs

Even the cold couldn’t contain my excitement for my trip to Three Sisters Springs. Three Sisters Springs is located in beautiful Crystal River which I have written about previously. You can check it out here: Best things to do in Crystal River, Florida. It’s a trip you’ll definitely want to make time for.

In the winter, the manatees search for warm water. One of the locations in Florida they turn to are the many springs. Believe it or not, in spite of how “fluffy” manatees are, they have relatively low fat on their bodies. The temperature of the springs throughout Florida, tend to be around 72 degrees. When the rivers and other water channels become cool, the manatees move into the springs. Three Sisters Springs is one of them they migrate to.

Manatees in river Three Sisters Springs
View along the trail of the manatees in the river.

A bit of confusion when we read the information for the wildlife refuge. I read it that you needed to go to the Three Sisters Springs Center to purchase your tickets. But clicking on the tickets link does show that you can also buy your tickets at the front gate entrance located at  601 Three Sisters Springs Trail, Crystal River, FL.

If you plan to ride the trolley, you will need to go to the Three Sisters Springs Center. If like us, you plan to walk, you will need to find parking then walk over to the Front Gate. There are plenty of public parking lots. We found one on 3rd Street.

Boardwalk at Three Sisters Springs
Boardwalk at Three Sisters Springs pic by my friend Dale.

It’s roughly a mile from the Visitor Center to the Front Gate. For walkers, find your parking spot then head directly to the Front Gate. No need to go to the Center first.

The woman at the front gate was very welcoming and explained the various routes to the boardwalk. We chose to take the longer route that was to the right as you entered the refuge. This allowed us a nice leisurely walk that took us first to the river. We did see some manatees at the various observation points. We were too far away and the water not as clear to get really good views but you could definitely see them in the water.

Manatees in the spring.
Manatees in the spring.

As we continued following the grassy flat trail, we came to the boardwalk. That is when manatee heaven happened. The colors of the spring are out of this world. The farther along the boardwalk you went, the more manatees there were!

Big ones. Little ones. Mamas and babies. The day we were there the count was 130 +/- They count by eye in the morning but the manatees come and go all day. There were rangers and other volunteers throughout the refuge ready to answer any questions you may have. That’s how we found out how they counted the manatees.

Baby manatees at the entrance from river to the springhead.
Baby manatees at the entrance from river to Three Sisters Spring.

The run where the spring connects to Crystal River was where the little ones would play while mom was snoozing in the refuge. There is a service that will allow you to snorkel with the manatees – but no touching! These gentle giants are protected. The spring is also closed off at this time of year to paddlers and boats of any kind including kayaks and canoes.

Manatee in the water.
Manatee pic by Lynette.

If I tell you cute! These manatees are absolutely adorable. My friend, Lynette, was able to capture the perfect photo. Look at this little face.

We spent quite some time on the boardwalk but eventually it was time to leave. We followed the grassy trail back out and were treated to many different birds including robins that had migrated to the refuge.

An easy walk back to our car and it was time for lunch. This time we ate at Crackers and it was delicious! A review coming soon but definitely a place I’ll go back to.

What you need to do when visiting:

These springs are located in a wildlife refuge in Crystal River, Florida. I was told there are 70 springs in this area. We were able to tick only three off our list on this visit. Information below from the Refuge Website

Springs Center

123 N.W U.S. Highway 19, Crystal River, Fl. (behind City Hall)

  • Ticket sales
  • Annual pass sales
  • Trolley departs from here every 30 minutes

Front Gate @ Three Sisters Springs

 601 Three Sisters Springs Trail, Crystal River, Fl. (Credit/Debit Card Only)

  • Ticket Sales
  • Walk-in Access
  • Bicycle Access


Phone: (352) 586-1170

Three Sisters Springs Center
123 NW HWY 19
Crystal River, FL 34428

8:30 am – 4:30 pm EST

Ticket sales end at 3:30 pm EST

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About Denise

Denise Sanger lives a life split between her love for fitness and her passion for travel particularly to the BEACH.  Denise also has a love of marketing and lives in beautiful Suwannee County, Florida. You can find out more about Denise here: About Denise

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