Located along the Crystal River on the east side of Kings Bay, Three Sisters Springs is an inlet that comprises three natural springs with vents and sand boils. The area is a known manatee sanctuary and one of the best places in the state to swim with the animals.
The springs officially became a wildlife refuge in 2010. The 58 acres that house Three Sisters Springs with local vegetation are one of the state’s last remaining urban springs.
The temperature of the springs stays at 73.3℉ all year long and is always open to swimmers. The crystalline waters are home to manatees, so from November 15 to March 31, paddle craft is not permitted in the springs for their protection.
Visitors can take a motorboat or paddleboat to the start of the spring run to enter it, but motorized vessels are never allowed inside. Swimming up the waterways is open daily from sunrise to sunset, but if the springs’ temperature drops below 62.2℉, US Fish & Wildlife Services close the area.
There is no longer water access from the refuge, and there is no land access from the water due to erosion. To get in the water, use one of the kayak launches at King’s Bay Park or Hunter Springs Park. Paid admission is required for in-water activities.
Three Sisters Springs is a part of the larger area, the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, which is an entirely independent attraction from the in-water recreation activities. The boardwalk is privately owned and is built through the CRNWR. There are numerous wildlife viewing points at these springs, the wetlands, Magnolia Springs, and Crystal Lake.
Hiking and biking trails are also available for exploring the refuge from another land-based perspective. An entry fee is mandatory to use the property.
Manatees and Other Wildlife
Many people come to Three Sisters Springs for the manatees. The best time to see these graceful creatures is during the high tide and cold fronts from mid-November to the end of March.
Some venomous snakes and alligators live in the springs. This is their natural habitat and, if encountered, shouldn’t be touched, approached, or picked up. While swimming or snorkeling in Three Sisters Springs, stay aware of your surroundings while enjoying the high visibility in the crystal-clear waters.
Outdoors enthusiasts visiting the springs often wonder if camping is permitted there. No on-site camping is allowed, but the Crystal Isles RV Resort is less than six miles away and has several types of lodging accommodations. RV and tent campsites, cabins, cottages, yurts, vacation campers, and “unique accommodations” are offered, along with many amenities and community activities.
Address (for the center): 123 NW HWY 19, Crystal River, Florida 34428
Hours: Sunrise to sunset