In Crystal River, Florida, Sunday, Nov. 15, marks the official start of Manatee Season, when hundreds of the slow moving mammals make their way from the cooler winter waters of the Gulf of Mexico to pristine springs throughout the area. Known as the Manatee Capital of the World, the Crystal River area is home to an amazing network of springs along Kings Bay and the Homosassa River, where the waters remain a constant 72°F (23°C). It is also home to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, the only refuge in the United States specifically created to protect critical habitats for the manatees. Crystal River and Homosassa are the only places in North America where swimmers can experience an up-close encounter with manatees in the wild, with an increased opportunity for more encounters during manatee season, which ends March 31, 2021.
|Photo by: Carol Grant / Oceangrant Images/Discover River Florida
“Whether it’s your first time, or you get to swim with them every day, a manatee encounter is amazing,” says John Pricher, Director of Discover Crystal River. “As travelers are seeking safe, outdoor experiences to enjoy with their close friends and families, we believe they will find the Crystal River area to be just the right place to make that happen.”
This year, local tour companies have made safety a top priority for passengers and as well as manatees. Many outfitters are offering semi-private and private boat tours, and carefully cleaning all swim and snorkel gear to ensure visitors have the safest, most rewarding underwater experience possible. For the gentle giants, all tour companies are educated to be stewards for the manatees, making sure swimmers, paddlers and boaters adhere to the rules and stay outside designated sanctuary areas.
New for this year, visitors can expect to see improvements at Three Sisters Spring Refuge. Though there is no ramp access to the springs from the refuge, the area is popular for its winding boardwalk, where manatees can easily be seen, thanks to the crystal clear water. The refuge has paved the entry road for cars and opened restrooms for park users (temporarily closed).
Plan your trip and learn more about manatee season at DiscoverCrystalRiver.com.