Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Another Incredible Florida River - Three Sisters Springs

Crystal River, Florida

The plan yesterday was to try another paddle on Crystal River.  When we launched at the campsite,  a few days ago, we found that it was not a very nice place to paddle..  The water was muddy and brown.  The following are a few pictures of that trip.

This one is of our motor home from the water. You can see we have a nice campsite but the river isn’t pretty in this area.

motorhome from canal
We saw a few Fiddler Crabs
Fiddler craps
The main part of the river, wide, choppy and not very clear.
canal from our rv park, gulf to the left
The canal leading to the main river.
It wasn’t pretty and we decided not to go back.  It wasn’t worth the effort it took.

That wasn’t the case on Tuesday!

I didn’t feel well all day on Tuesday, nothing specific, other than I ached all over and had no energy.  Al was sore from his venture onto the roof and wasn’t energetic either. 

We found another place to launch that was nearer to some springs.  There are some 30 springs on Crystal River.   The launch point we found is  Crystal River Kayak.  We had stopped there many times before over the years and never even realized they were right on the river!  It turns out they have a very nice little kayak launch (or you can rent kayaks) from them.  It’s right off highway 19 which is the main road in town.
They are a short 20 minute paddle to “Three Sisters Springs.”  It cost $7 to launch both boats and park our car.  As it turns out, it was money very well spent.

By the time we got motivated, it was 3:00, so we didn’t have much time as they close at 5:00 pm.
You start off in very shallow, clear water in a canal.  They have a nice floating doc, so launching is easy.   


You meander down the narrow canals.

Go through a tunnel.


It was beautiful from the beginning to the end.

There are houses all along the way once you get to the wider part of the river.  Most people have boats, so it’s deep enough for them.  You can get to the Gulf of Mexico, so there are some larger boats. 

The water is crystal clear and beautiful.


Because this area has a very heavy population of Manatee, there is a “no wake zone” throughout this part of the river.  That makes for nice paddling.  It is strictly  enforced, to the point that,  in season, they even have airplanes watching you!  There are so many Manatee here in the winter months, and they can so easily be harmed by boat propellers, that they have to protect them.  Many people who boat or live on the river disagree with all the rules, but fortunately they lost that battle!


Once it gets colder, there will be lots of manatee here.  We only saw one and he was moving very fast!  This photo was another of my famous over my shoulder photos!


We zigged and zagged until we found the entrance to the “Three Sisters Springs.”  Where there are underground springs, there is beautiful water.  The water is the prettiest right where the springs are.

This is the sign we saw leading to the springs.  It's easy to miss, so look for it.


No motor boats allowed here…in fact I was afraid our fat inflatable kayaks wouldn’t fit.  The following is a picture I took over my shoulder.  I’m getting pretty good at taking pictures behind me, huh?  You have to paddle through the "gate" to get into the spring run area.

entrance to Three sisters springs

You can see the “gate” to keep boats out.  Kayaks and canoes, and manatee are allowed!
Once you get in, it's amazingly beautiful.


Once you get past the gate, you paddle through a narrow canal.  The water is getting prettier and prettier. 

Those are rocks on the side…but they look a lot like Manatee!


It's an easy paddle.

It’s incredibly beautiful!

entrance to Three sisters springs

entrance to Three sisters springs

It starts to open up into two large “rooms.”

entrance to Three sisters springs

There are three springs in this area.
They are “oh my God” beautiful. I have seen springs many, many times, but I never tire of them.
You can see fish swimming around.
In the photo below, you can see the circular spring.  That is where the water is coming out from the aquifer.
The photos below were the other main spring in this area. 
Those are large trees that have fallen into the springs.
The water is so clear that it’s hard to tell, but I’m guessing the water was at least 30 feet deep.  You could easily see all the way to the bottom.  There was a viewing area and board walk over head.  Evidently there is a place to walk to see the springs.  We’ll check that out today.


panorama of crystal river2
For most of our visit, we were the only people in his beautiful area.  We just floated over the springs and enjoyed the beauty.
We headed back out the canal and back to the main river.
We went down canals with more homes.  Here is a boat garage….with only 2 kayaks inside.
The main river.
A “swan boat.  Evidently it is used by a local realtor to advertise and take people on tours of the property. Want to buy some beautiful property?
We were told people had been seeing lots of Manatee up by the bridge.   Unfortunately, we didn’t see any.  They will be coming very soon though.  October is a very nice time to kayak this river.  Once the Manatees start concentrating here, they will start stricter enforcement.  Here are some of the guidelines for swimming, viewing manatees.
People come from all over the world, just to swim and dive with the manatee.  We feel very lucky to be here and see these incredible springs.
The following is a picture I found on the internet.  I think it was taken from “Kings Bay.”  It’s another part of the river, that we will probably paddle tomorrow.  All those brown things you see are Manatee.  Note the diver in the bottom right corner?  They are all huddling together to keep warm.  This was taken in the winter of 2011.
Tours and Rates Information   Plantation Dive Shop   Crystal River  Florida
There are very strict guidelines.  You are not supposed to touch them, but since they are like big puppy dogs, it’s sometimes difficult when they swim up to you and roll over for you to rub their bellies!  The youngsters are especially friendly!
We only went about 2 miles, but with the springs and tides, we had a bit of  a current for most of the trip.  Of course, being out of shape might have been part of the problem!  We were tired when we got back to the truck.


Although we have dove with the manatee and boated on this river before, we had never been to Three Sisters Springs.
There is another main spring along the Crystal River.  That is the one that we dove into and played with the manatees years ago.  We think the closest place to access that spring is by a local dive shop.  We plan on going there today.  More on that later!


  1. Just incredible pictures. What a wonderful couple of hours you had in such beautiful areas. But I really don't understand why anybody would "stand" on a manatee. People are really stupid. Thanks for taking us along.

  2. WOW, what a gorgeous place. Love your pictures and the colour of the water is to die for. I love seeing the manatees, they are just so peaceful. Thanks for the tour.

    Kevin and Ruth

  3. I love, love, love these gorgeous springs, Karen, and I could never, never, never tire of your beautiful photos of them. Just makes me ache to get there with my kayak. Someday.

  4. Incredibly beautiful photos of the springs and rivers. That is crystal clear water for sure.

    Great photos taken over your shoulder too. Hope you don't drop your camera in those springs!

  5. Never tire of your Manatee Springs pictures, can't wait till you get to see them this winter. Looks like a great day for kayaking. Be safe out there. Sam & Donna..

  6. Wow what a beautiful place.Thanks for sharing it!

  7. What a lovely place, thank you for sharing. Super pictures.
    Now, I expect you will be aching again after all that kayaking.
    Happy Trails, Penny, TX

  8. Those photos almost make me want to buy a kayak. Absolutely gorgeous - now I understand why you love kayaking so much. Little Baxter sure is a cutie pie.

  9. We were there last year a little later than now. We had to paddle through King's Bay on the way to 3 Sisters. Quite a bit of boat traffic there. Saw the Swan boat. There were divers in the 3 sisters which is just as you say. Simply gorgeous. And so are you pictures. Thanks for the memories of a great time. Hope to go back this winter and see more manatee.

  10. we are going to three sisters springs this weekend! it looks amazing! Does anyone know if there are good places to camp nearby crystal river or three sisters?


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