Crystal River is home to the only national wildlife refuge in the United States specifically created to protect habitats for Florida’s beloved official marine mammal, the Florida manatee.

Location and Contact Information

      Group of people gathered to release a rehabbed manatee at Three Sisters Springs
      To Report a Sick, Injured, Dead, Tagged, Orphaned or Distressed Manatee

      Please report any manatee, sea turtle, dolphin-related injuries or related crimes to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission wildlife emergency hotline: 1-888-404-3922. 

      Be prepared to provide information for the following questions:

      • Is the manatee alive or dead?
      • When did you see the manatee?
      • What is the exact location of the manatee?
      • How long have you observed the manatee?
      • What is the approximate size of the manatee?
      • What is the location of the public boat ramp closest to the manatee?
      • Does the manatee have a “tag” attached near its tail?
      • Can you provide a contact number where you can be reached for further information?

      After contacting the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline, a manatee biologist will call you back to the number you provided. In the meantime, please take pictures and/or a video of the manatee to send to the biologist. This footage can assist in determining what is wrong with the manatee and/or to help identify the individual through any unique characteristics if it happens to leave the area prior to further evaluation of its condition.

      Manatee Viewing Guidelines and Prohibitions

      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service encourages passive observation, which means not initiating contact with manatees and calmly observing from a distance and at the surface.

      The following activities are prohibited within all waters of Kings Bay, including Three Sisters Springs:

      • Chasing or pursuing a manatee
      • Disturbing or touching a resting* or feeding manatee
      • Diving from the surface onto a resting or feeding manatee
      • Cornering or surrounding a manatee
      • Riding, holding, grabbing, pinching, poking, prodding, or stabbing a manatee with anything, including your hands and feet
      • Standing on a manatee
      • Separating a mother and calf or separating a group of manatees
      • Giving manatee(s) anything to eat or drink
      • Actively initiating contact with belted/tagged manatee(s)
      • Interfering with rescue and research activities

      About Us

      Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1983, is the only refuge created specifically for the protection of the threatened Florida manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee.  This unique refuge preserves Three Sisters Springs, the last unspoiled and undeveloped spring habitat in Kings Bay.

      What We Do

      Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge establishes and maintains critical winter habitat for the Florida manatee, and protects island habitat necessary for migratory and shore birds. 

      Our Organization

      Refuge Purpose

      Each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System is established to serve a statutory purpose that targets the conservation of native species dependent on its lands and waters. All activities on those acres are reviewed for compatibility with this statutory purpose.  

      The purpose of the refuge is as follows: 

      1. To protect threatened and endangered species, especially the West Indian manatee.
      2. To provide fish and wildlife-oriented recreational opportunities.
      3. To protect natural resources.
      4. To conserve endangered and threatened species.
      A bright blue sky obstructed by fluffy white clouds reflected off of a stream shot from inside a kayak
      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages an unparalleled network of public lands and waters called the National Wildlife Refuge System. With more than 570 refuges spanning the country, this system protects iconic species and provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities on Earth.

      Our Species

      The Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is a subspecies of the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus).

      Get Involved

      Whether you want to further conservation, learn more about nature or share your love of the outdoors, you’ve come to the right place. National wildlife refuges provide many opportunities for you to help your community and fish and wildlife by doing what you love. 

      National wildlife refuges partner with volunteers, youth groups, landowners, neighbors and residents of urban and coastal communities to make a lasting difference. 
      Find out how you can help make American lands healthier and communities stronger while doing something personally satisfying.

      Projects and Research

      • Manatee Protection – The refuge staff is in charge of setting up, monitoring and enforcing seven manatee sanctuaries. 
      • Visitor Services – In addition to managing over 400,000 visitors on the water, the refuge also provides land-based activities. With the acquisition of Three Sister Springs, wildlife observation and photography, interpretation and environmental education have become top priorities for the refuge. 
      • Manatee Rescues - Assisting injured and orphaned manatees is another major role the refuge staff plays in Kings Bay year-round. 
      • Bird Survey - The refuge performs an annual bird count in early January, and provides bluebird nesting boxes around the Three Sisters Springs property. 
      • Manatee Survey - Staff biologists fly over the Kings Bay area monthly to count manatees. 
      • Manatee Health Assessment - Historically, the refuge has partnered with agencies to capture manatees for health assessments. Data acquired during assessments provides crucial information about manatee health and habits and allows researchers to gain a deeper understanding of the species.
      • Carrying Compacity Study - Three Sisters Springs received large numbers of visitors over the last two years. The refuge is now conducting a study counting visitors, measuring turbidity, nitrogen and phosphorus in the springs during selected times of the summer.