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Trip report: November 2016

Crystal River at Kings Bay...

Kayaking with Manatees

The Crystal River is formed by a series of springs and flows about 7 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Of the 30 springs along the river, 28 are located in and around Kings Bay in the city of Crystal River, Florida. The area is known for manatees taking shelter in the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge - about 40 reside year-round, and 400-500 in the winter. Protected areas are closed to all water traffic from November 15 to March 31. (Map and photos)

paddle Crystal River, Kings Bay, kayak, canoe

Kings Bay, Crystal River
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Location: Citrus County at Crystal River (60 miles north of Tampa, 30 miles west of Ocala)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Tidal: Yes
Launch points: City boat ramp (558 NW 3rd St,) Pete's Pier (1 SW 1st Pl.; fee to park), Hunter Spring Park, Fort Island Park boat ramp (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Crystal River Preserve State Park, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Crystal River Archaeological State Park, Homosassa Springs

Crystal River at Kings Bay... Comments and Photos

Kayaking is enjoyable around and near the shoreline of Kings Bay, to the springs, and along the river towards the Gulf. When windy, kayaking on the open water can be a workout. This is a busy area with homes and businesses around the Bay. Motorboats, pontoon boats, and tour boats are common for fishing, diving, snorkeling and viewing manatees. Several businesses offer dive-with-manatee tours. When interacting with manatees, look but don't touch! Note that it is unlawful for any person, at any time, intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb any manatee (see Florida's Manatee Viewing Guidelines ).


This was before the winter season when the manatee population grows, but we saw some manatee near Three Sisters Springs and Banana Island.


In addition to manatees, there is much wildlife everywhere around Kings Bay both above and below the water.

Launch to Hunter Spring

Hunter Spring

From Hunter Spring to US 19

From US 19 to Three Sisters Springs

Three Sisters Springs

Perhaps the most popular springs, the Three Sisters are beautiful - clean and clear. At the mouth of the springs are several pilings that keep motorboats out. Kayaks can go through the pilings and up a narrow channel to the springs.  This area is popular with snorkelers, but be careful. In the winter, manatee can be seen here - we didn't see any in the springs this trip (not in season) but did see them out on the canals and in Kings Bay).

From Three Sisters to Buzzard Island

Tarpon Spring, a major Kings Bay spring, is at the south end of the island

Banana Island and Return to Launch

One of the major springs is located at the south end of Banana Island

About Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge:

The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, was established in 1983 specifically for the protection of the endangered West Indian Manatee. This unique refuge preserves the last unspoiled and undeveloped habitat in Kings Bay, which forms the headwaters of the Crystal River. The refuge preserves the warm water spring havens, which provide critical habitat for the manatee populations that migrate here each winter.


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