By the end of July in Southwest Florida, I am ready to cool down. With the gulf temperatures hovering in the low 90s and the air temperature above 100, this is not an easy task. Therefore, we decided to head north in search of cooler waters.
Crystal River is a city located on Kings Bay on the Nature Coast of Florida. Kings Bay is fed by 70 first-magnitude springs which discharge about 600 million gallons of water each day, making Crystal River Springs the second largest spring in the state right behind Wakulla Springs near Tallahassee. During the winter when the gulf water cools, over 400 manatees come into Kings Bay to keep warm in the 72 degree spring fed waters.
Although we only saw two manatees, we had a great time exploring the bay, diving the springs, and floating around Parker Island. The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is made up of twenty islands in and around Kings Bay. The 80-acre refuge is accessible only by boat and was established in 1983 to protect the manatees. Parker Island is just one of the many islands in the bay where people congregate with their boats to swim, snorkel, or just enjoy floating in the cool waters.
For me, the highlight of the day was visiting Three Sister Springs. I remember coming here back in the late 70s when we were getting certified to SCUBA dive. We did a night dive at one of the springs (can’t remember which one) and then spent the next day exploring the area in a rented john boat. I remember going to Three Sister Springs and taking pictures. Back then, the spring seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. There were no other boats and few homes along the way.
Today, however, the area has really developed. Dozens of people in kayaks, floats, and paddleboards were leaving the marinas and paddling the mile or so upriver to the springs. You are no longer allowed to take a motorboat into the spring area, so we parked along the shore and swam into the spring.
Jumping into the 72-degree water was a shock, but once I got used to it, I was hooked. We swam into the stream where we saw a baby manatee just resting on the bottom of the spring. Three Sisters Spring is a natural inlet on the eastern side of Kings Bay. The springs contain many sand boils and vents which are fun to explore. The only access to the spring is by swimming or paddling a kayak or paddleboard. Many people were just floating in tubes.
After spending the day on King’s Bay, we returned to our campsite to prepare for our scalloping trip the next day. More on that in another posting.
Ellie has returned to real estate sales after spending the last 40 years teaching English at Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers She has teamed up with her husband, Bob, who has been a....
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