Springs, Manatee, and Wildlife Data

Florida has more first-magnitude springs than any other state or any other nation in the world. The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge comprises 20 islands and several small parcels of land. 600,000,000 gallons of fresh water flow daily from more than 30 natural springs in the refuge. The springs are a natural warm water refuge for the West Indian manatee providing critical habitat for the Crystal River herd, which makes up about 25 percent of the U.S. manatee population.

Spring magnitude is measured by volume in gallons of water discharged as follows: 1st Magnitude - 64,600,000 Gallons Daily; 2nd Magnitude - 6,460,000 Gallons Daily; 3rd Magnitude - 646,000 Gallons Daily; 4th Magnitude - 144,000 Gallons Daily.

Three Sisters Springs/Idiot’s Delight (Water Temperature: 73.3 °F - 22.9 °C) - Three Sisters Springs is an environmental jewel - a blue oasis of clear and pristine water. Three Sisters Springs is a complex of three springs with vents and sand boils that help feed Kings Bay, the headwaters of Crystal River. Three Sisters springs also constitutes one of the most important natural warm-water refuges for manatees. The mouth of Three Sisters is blocked by concrete posts to prevent boat access but paddleboards and kayaks can enter from April 1 to November 14. From November 15 to March 31 you can enter by snorkeling only except on very cold days when too many manatees are there causing a temporary closure. Three Sisters Springs and Idiot’s Delight provide an ideal winter habitat for manatees. On cold winter days, over 200 manatees can be found at Three Sisters Springs and Idiot’s Delight. During temporary closures to Three Sisters Springs on very cold days, you can still paddle to Idiot's Delight and snorkel with plenty of Manatees there.

King Spring/Mullet Hole (Water Temperature: 73.2 °F - 22.9 °C) - King Spring and Mullet Hole are side by side on the south side of Banana Island. King Spring is about 30 feet deep and 200 feet in diameter and is the main Scuba diving attraction in King’s Bay. There is a manatee statue at about 19 feet. Mangrove snapper, mullet, sheepshead, jacks, tarpon and manatee are found at these springs. On cold winter days, over 200 manatees can be found at King Spring and Mullet Hole. In the summer when the King’s Bay manatee population declines to about 25 manatees throughout the bay, about half of these tend to congregate around Banana Island including some mother-calf pairings that prefer King’s Bay over going out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Manatee Facts - There are three known species of manatee in the world: West Indian, Amazonian and West African. The Florida Manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian variety which is the largest of the three species. West Indian manatees live along the coasts and inland waters of the southeastern U.S., eastern Mexico, the Greater Antilles, and Central America to as far as northern Brazil and have been seen as far west as Texas and north as Virginia. They are gentle, slow-moving vegetarians that live up to 60 years, weigh 1,000-1,500 pounds, and reach 12 feet in length. As mammals, they must surface to breathe about every 5 minutes but can stay under for 20 minutes.

Birds:

Anhinga a/k/a Snake Bird (Anhinga) - Black with long white patch on top of their wing. Moves through the water like a snake when fishing. Stabs fish in the side then flips them up to swallow head-first. Does not have oil glands, must open their wings to dry out.

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus Occidentalis) - One of three pelican species found in the Western Hemisphere. Feeds by diving into the water bill-first like a kingfisher often submerging completely below the surface to snap up prey. Very large bill for scooping prey. The head is white but often gets a yellowish wash in adult birds. Very gregarious birds that live in flocks of both sexes throughout the year. Graceful in the air but clumsy on land.

Double-Crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax Melanoleucos) - Yellow orange beak. Flies with neck kinked. Commonly found on freshwater ponds as well as saltwater.

White Ibis (Eudocimus Albus) - Long, curved red bill with black wing tips, white body, orange legs, and curved orange beak. Probes mud for crustaceans and frogs.

Wood stork (Mycteria Americana) - White bird with black, bald head and black wing linings. Wades in shallow waters looking for fish, frogs, snakes and baby alligators.