Kayaking Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, FL

kayaking Three Sisters Springs
My daughter & I kayaking Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, FL.

Crystal River, FL is famous for their natural springs and it’s known as “The Manatee Capital of the World”. There are over 70 natural springs that feed the Crystal River and Kings Bay. In winter, at Three Sisters Springs, manatees gather in the 100s to keep warm. It’s a beautiful place to kayak, paddle board and snorkel!

Kayaking Three Sisters Springs

Three Sisters Springs is one of the most popular springs in Florida and kayaking it has been on my bucket list. My family and I headed out on a quest to see the breath-taking natural springs and hopes to see manatees. We were 6 kayaks deep, 13 paddlers in total.

Kings Bay Park (Kayak Launch)

Three Sisters Springs kayak launch
Kings Bay Park – Three Sisters Springs kayak launch

We launched our kayaks to paddle to Three Sisters Springs at Kings Bay Park. The park also had a playground and restrooms. We saw a few people fishing from the dock and also along the riverside. Parking was $5 and the lot can get full if you go later in the day. I’d recommend going early!

Getting to Three Sisters Springs

kings bay cyrstal river florida
Kings Bay – some of my family kayaking to Three Sisters Springs

From the kayak launch to Three Sisters Springs it took around 40 minutes. Keep in mind we had a large party so we likely added 10 mins. I was a bit surprised by the paddle to the springs – we launched in the bay and then headed into a residential intercoastal waterway before reaching the springs. I always envisioned we’d kayak through dense tropical woodlands – ha! You’re paddling in a no wake zone the entire way which is good for beginners.

Three sisters springs kayaking
Almost to the springs!

Three Sisters Springs

After passing rows of homes on your right side with the nature refuge on your left, tucked away was the entrance to Three Sisters Springs, also called Idiots Delight. The water changes immediately as you enter from a dark brown to turquoise blue. Water so crystal clear you can see every pebble at the bottom. The spring has one entry and exit point which was pretty congested with a lot of others exploring the spring.

The beautiful lagoon is only accessible by water. No motorized vehicles are allowed in the springs. We spent around 40 mins exploring and swimming. Unfortunately we didn’t see any manatees during our paddle but it was also about 100 degrees in September.

This was right as we entered the springs!
Three Sisters Springs Map:
three sisters springs map
Crystal River Springs Map to Three Sisters Springs from Kings Bay park kayak launch.

Looking for kayak rentals?

There are quite a few kayak rental options in Crystal River. We rented from Paddles Outdoor Rentals. They had great reviews and were priced well. Also offering manatee swim and kayak tours. The gift shop was cute. We bought the kids new goggles and some shark teeth before heading out to launch.

kayak rentals crystal river
The cute kayak rental in Crystal River – Paddles Outdoor Rental

The best time to see manatees

November through March is your best chance to see manatees in Crystal River Springs. When the water temps in the Gulf of Mexico dip below 68 degrees, manatee’s come to Three Sisters Springs to stay warm in the 72°F (22° Celsius) water year-round. 

crystal river kayaking
Three Sisters Springs swim with the manatees. | Credit: gomanateefest.com

If kayaking isn’t your thing – you can see the manatees and Three Sisters Springs from the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. It’s the only national wildlife refuge in the United States to protect habitats for the Florida manatee. The 57 acre refuge has hiking and bike trails, wildlife viewing and a boardwalk that overlooks the spring.

Make sure to check out Hunter Springs Park

Looking for Crystal River springs swimming? Hunter Springs Park has fresh water springs and a beach shore making it a must see spot. It’s accessible by kayak and should be part of your journey as you’re visiting Three Sisters Springs. The park has a roped-off swimming area, kayak/canoe launch, a boardwalk along the water, a playground, picnic area with grills, and restrooms.   This park is a great kayak launch point.

Can you swim in Three Sisters Springs?

Yes, you can swim in the springs. The temperature is 72 degrees year round. This is the only location in the US where you can swim with manatees.

three sisters springs swimming
My daughter swimming in the springs.

What’s a group of manatees called?

A group of manatees is called an aggregation. They’re not often found in large groups together but usually they’re solo or in pairs. When a group of manatees gather, likely they are mating or trying to keep warm near a large food supply.

When is the Florida Manatee Festival?

The 36th annual Florida Manatee Festival will be January 14th & 15, 2023 in Crystal River, Fl. The event will have live music, food vendors, manatee tours, and fun for the kids!

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