People come from around the world to experience the Florida
manatee at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.
There is no fishing allowed in refuge waters (which make up less than 5% of all waters in King Bay), which is limited to the interior springs of Three Sisters Springs, King Spring/Tarpon Hole area and Warden Key surrounding waters. In addition, all established manatee sanctuaries (closed waters) prohibit all fishing activity. However, the man-made lake inside the Three Sisters Springs property (not to be confused with the springs) will soon be opened to fishing on a controlled basis. All other waterways in Kings Bay (state navigational waterways-over 95% of Kings Bay) are opened to fishing.
The most popular wildlife viewing opportunity the refuge offers is manatee viewing (both: from above the water’s surface and from underwater). In the winter months, the most popular area for manatee viewing is the Three Sisters Springs boardwalk. Visitors may view manatees underwater by either: bringing their own vessels, renting vessels or joining a guided snorkeling tour operator. Remember to view "Manatee Manners" before visiting the refuge for any manatee oriented recreational activities.
Interpretive manatee talks take place daily in the winter months at the boardwalk surrounding Three Sisters Springs. These talks are interpreted by Manatee Watch and other volunteers during the daily scheduled shuttle tours. Our Visitor Center includes a manatee theater and refuge exhibits interpreting topics such as: manatee population dynamics, manatee natural history, manatee management at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, refuge springs hydrology, and many other exciting topics.
All tour operators in Kings Bay offer quality guided tours about manatees and the refuge. To schedule your boat trip, contact any of these permitted operators. Shuttle tours info: http://www.threesistersspringsvisitor.org/page/home
Several environmental education programs are offered to schools and other education organizations on a limited basis. If you wish to coordinate an environmental education program with the refuge, please contact Ivan Vicente at 352-563-2088 x 211
The most popular photography experience in the refuge takes place at the Three Sisters Springs boardwalk where anyone can find the perfect shot of resting manatees in the natural “giant bowls filled with liquid light” that make up the Three Sisters Springs. Underwater photography of manatees is highly popular as well, but be aware of flash regulations according to where you choose to take photos and be sure to watch "Manatee Manners" for photographers and videographers before your visit.
If you are planning on conducting any of these activities, please watch “Manatee Manners” for boaters and for paddlers accordingly, prior to recreating in the refuge. Also, be aware of closed areas to vessels (motorized and non-motorized) when navigating in the refuge, by paying close attention to posted signs and notices at the entrances of specific waterways.
Click here to view map of Kings Bay Speed Zones
Shelling and Beach Combing
Page Photo Credits Scuba diver by Glenn Wilsey, Wildife Viewing by Megan Garvin, Environmental Education by Bonnie Ryback, Photography - Photo by Michel Gilbert, USFWS photo, No fishing sign by Ivan Vicente
Last Updated: Nov 10, 2015