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Three Sisters Springs

Manatee in Three Sisters Springs
Manatee in Three Sisters Springs. / Visit Citrus, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

A gorgeous natural landmark of Florida is Three Sisters Springs – a pool that is formed by three powerful springs. Hundreds of manatees often come to the lucid, blue-green water of this spring pool.

3.8 out of 10 stars 38.3%

GPS coordinates
28.8886 N 82.5892 W
Location, address
North America, United States, Florida, Citrus County, Crystal River
Average discharge
around 2,230 l/s (2009)

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

Description

Three Sisters Springs, Florida
Three Sisters Springs / corvettediver, / CC BY-SA 2.0

A small, forested patch of Floridian forest in the city of Crystal River. In this forest is located a gorgeous, incredibly lucid pool with blue-green water. This approximately 110 m long natural pool has been formed by three powerful springs that emanate from its bottom. These springs from the west to east are named Little Sister, Big Sister, and Pretty Sister. In total in these three springs are 19 vents. The depth of this basin reaches 4.6 m.

From this basin towards the nearby Crystal River flows a short, powerful stream – Three Sisters Spring Run.

At the mouth of this short river are two more underwater springs: Idiot’s Delight 1 and Idiot’s Delight 2. These springs flow from shafts that are at least 6 m deep.

Manatees of Three Sisters Springs

Three Sisters Springs, part of spring basin with manatees
Three Sisters Springs, part of spring basin with manatees. / FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

During the winter many Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) are hiding from the colder water of the winter sea in the springs that have a bit higher water temperature. Three Sisters Springs have a temperature of 23° C. This is some 2-3 degrees warmer than in the Mexican Bay during the winter. These springs together with other subaquatic springs of Crystal River (e.g. King’s Spring) are the best most comfortable winter refuge for those amazing animals.

Most of these animals stay at the mouth of the spring run, at Idiot’s Delight springs. The colder the weather, the higher there is chance to see these amazing animals. A record number of 528 manatees stayed in the springs in the late December of 2014. Seems, that animals learn about the existence of these springs: over the last 60 years, the number of manatees has gradually increased.

The springs in Citrus County are the only ones in the USA where swimmers can swim next to the manatees. This is controversial practice: many swimmers love to come to the springs during the winter when steam rises from the Three Sisters Springs. Visitors snorkel and swim between the manatees, disturbing them. Currently, this is regulated through changes in the legislation.

History

Three Sisters Springs was a popular recreational place for locals already in the 1950ies. In the late 1950ies started the development of housing areas around the Crystal River. Works were extensive and the natural landscape was changed considerably. North from the springs was created an artificial lake – Lake Crystal. This dig provided the material to fill in the wetland areas for housing.

In 2010, a union of public and non-governmental organizations purchased the land around the springs. Through hard and extensive work the former beauty of this area was returned.

Now Three Sisters Springs is a small managed territory in a larger nature-protected area: Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

The area is adjusted for tourist access. Visitors can look at the springs from a boardwalk or go in it with a boat.

References

  1. Sally White, Metamorphosis at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, NatureCoaster.com, January 14, 2021. Accessed in August 6, 2022.

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