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Crystal River, Florida is located around King's Bay, a natural spring fed bay which is the headwaters to the Crystal River, leading out to the Gulf of Mexico. The springs of King's Bay remain a constant 72 degrees year round creating a unique warm water refuge for the endangered Florida Manatees. During the cooler months, when the Gulf of Mexico water temperature dips below 68 degrees, the Florida Manatees will migrate into King's Bay in large numbers to seek the warm spring waters. The warm waters allow the manatees to thermoregulate and survive the cold water temperatures of the Gulf of Mexico. This is one of the most important habitats for the manatees in the state. The crown jewel of Crystal River is a series of springs known as Three Sisters. Three Sisters Springs is located on the eastern side of King's Bay and at times, during periods of low temperatures, can itself provide life sustaining warm water for close to 300 manatees. There are many other springs in and around King's Bay that offer the same refuge for the manatees and at peak times during the winter there has been as many as 700 manatees in the bay.
Because of this large concentration of manatees, manatee eco tourism in Citrus County has flourished over the last 4 decades. Every year, around 100,000 visitors will trek to Crystal River for the sole purpose of viewing and swiming with the manatees. Manatee swim tour operators, kayak rental companies, and dive shops cater to those who wish to expereince this amazing animal up close and personal.
If you find yourself in the state you should take the time to visit Crystal River and experience the beauty of this national treasure. Located about 1 hour north of Tampa and just 1.5 hours NW of Orlando, makes it an easy day trip for most visitors and Florida residents. Take the time to venture out on the bay and visit with the curious manatee, boat trips are available from several locations daily throughout the year.