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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Manatees, fans flock to Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River

Published 2/18/2015
Stamatakis, his wife Marsha and their fellow visitors were lucky that day. They didn’t get shut out of the 1 1/2-acre spring as hundreds of others have when refuge officials closed Three Sisters numerous times since December. When too many manatees congregate in the warm-water refuge, people are kept out. The situation changes daily, so the refuge has set up a Facebook page with real-time updates. Visitors can still observe manatees that gather around the 70 other springs scattered around adjacent Kings Bay, but those waters are green and murky — not optimum for viewing and photography.

More than 265,000 people snorkeled, paddled or viewed manatees from private, guided and rental boats in the Crystal River refuge last year, according to the USFWS. The huge congregation of visitors and manatees prompted the agency to propose new rules for Three Sisters: kayaks and canoes would be blocked from two-thirds of the spring and only admitted to the remainder of the area between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and flash photography would be prohibited except by special permit. Those measures are still awaiting approval.

For updates on openings and closures of Three Sisters Springs, visit http://www.fws.gov/refuge/crystal-river/
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