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Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River re-opens

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If you came down from Chicago or anywhere to Florida for the holiday vacation you may have been disappointed to hear that Three Sisters Springs in The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge had closed on Tuesday. Fortunately, the springs reopened and it is business as usual.

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The wildlife refuge, about an hour and a half north of Tampa, saw frigid temperatures on Tuesday dropping into the 30s and 40s. The manatees crowd the springs during cold weather as the springs produces a constant 72, which they need to survive.

Hundreds of manatees packed into the springs prompting officials to close them to swimmers and kayakers. They were afraid the presence of people would spook them as they were already stressed from the cold weather.

Fortunately, warmer weather broke and by Friday it was nearing 80 degrees. I was on vacation from Chicago and planned to visit the springs Friday. Fortunately, my plans were not affected by the earlier closing.

The warmer weather made many manatees leave the springs, but this was just as exciting as seeing them in the springs themselves. The estuaries and the Crystal River itself were full of manatees going back out to sea.

It did not mean that the springs were deserted. Close to a hundred lined the small spring in the morning and close to 30-40 remained later in the day. The water in the springs is completely clear, so visibility of the sea cows is outstanding. Glare from the sun did make photography difficult, so a lens to cut the glare is handy if taking pictures.

The Three Sisters Springs is one of the only places where people can interact with an endangered species in the country. Visitors are allowed to touch the manatees as long as they do not chase them or bother sleeping ones. If a manatee approaches a snorkeler or a kayaker, which is common as they are curious creatures, people are allowed to touch or pet them.

If you take a canoe or kayak into the spring, you cannot get out and start swimming. You can swim into the springs and then snorkel or swim with the manatees once you are in. I brought my canoe in and was content to just float with the beautiful and peaceful creatures.

Crystal River is a town built on the tourism from the endangered manatees. River cruises, snorkeling tours, kayak tours, and canoe and kayak rentals are omnipotent. Click here to see one tour operation.

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