Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
On the Nature Coast of Florida from Crystal River to Tampa Bay
1502 SE Kings Bay Dr., Crystal River, FL 34429
Phone: 352-563-2088 ext. 215 Fax: 352-795-7961
Three Sisters Springs, a 58-acre property in Crystal River, Florida contains five pristine, naturally-occurring springs. An ecological marvel, Three Sisters is one of the state's last remaining urban springs. During the winter months as well as critical cold fronts, the springs are home to more than 150 endangered manatees, a beloved species known for being a "gentle giant." The property will be preserved from development and managed as a wildlife refuge.
The acquisition of the Three Sisters Springs project was a unique opportunity to protect Florida's threatened West Indian Manatee, greatly enhance local water quality and bolster the character and economy of the City of Crystal River, Florida. The Friends of Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, along with the National Wildlife Refuge Association, brought together an unusual slate of public and private partners to bring this special project to fruition. Through these efforts, Three Sisters Springs, an internationally important manatee refuge and tourist destination, permanently became protected with a large conserved space in the heart of the City of Crystal River, with educational and low-impact recreation opportunities for citizens and visitors.
Three Sisters Springs is one of Florida's last remaining urban spring areas, an ecological marvel that supports a winter population of manatees in excess of 150, who rest, breed and give birth in the springs. Three Sisters Springs is also a critical element of local ecotourism. People journey from around the world to the site and the adjacent Crystal River NWR Complex in Kings Bay to see and swim in proximity to manatees in the crystal-clear waters. The refuge aids in preserving Florida's most significant naturally occurring warm water area for the manatee and provides critical habitat for approximately 25 percent of the nation's manatee population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ranked Three Sisters Springs as its highest priority acquisition for conservation as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System in the 10-state Southeast Region.
However, this growing attention also constitutes a threat to manatees. The Three Sisters project helps strike a balance between manatee protection and the community benefits of ecotourism by guiding the public to appropriate low-impact manatee viewing stations. At the present time, this property is the only existing public destination in this area where tourists can go to view a manatee from land. The crystal-clear warm spring waters of Three Sisters are not only a favorite wintertime destination for manatees; they are a spectacular natural location for viewing manatees as they spend time enjoying the fresh water flow. The Three Sisters Project helps to protect this unmatched land-based area for viewing manatees, but also supports the growing ecotourism industry and ensures the fresh water quality of greater Kings Bay.
©2012, Friends of Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Inc.
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