Three Sisters Springs (Crystal River)
Summary of Features
- Scale -2nd magnitude
- Scenery -excellent-outstanding
- How Pristine? -house by one spring, fringe of trees around other springs
- Swimming -good, outstanding snorkeling
- Protection -unknown
- Crowds -can be heavy in all seasons
- Access -good, swimming or canoe/kayak only
- Facilities -none
- Safety -very good
- Scuba -yes
- Cost -free
In a modified natural inlet/canal on the east side of King’s Bay, at the head of a run blocked by concrete pilings—see map.
For maps, latitude/longitude data, driving directions, satellite imagery, and topographic representations as well as weather conditions at this spring, go to Greg Johnson's informative "Florida Springs Database" web site at the following address: http://www.ThisWaytothe.Net/springs/floridasprings.htm#Florida
Three Sisters is a complex of three spring areas with several large and small vents and sand boils. The springs share a run along a mainly N/S line, with the common run exiting to the main canal between the two lower springs. See drawing identifying the springs as #s 1-3.
Spring #1 is the most northerly or furthest to the left as one enters the system from the mouth of the spring run. The spring forms an oval pool about 40 by 30 feet in diameter and is canopied and shaded. Water in the spring is clear and blue, and the silty bottom is covered with sand, fallen branches, and tree roots. Water flows from one or more small limestone openings near the center-back of the pool at a depth of about 15 feet. There is a mild boil on the surface. The pool is bowl-shaped and has a general depth of about 10 feet. Water exits the pool to the south in a canopied run that is 5-8 feet deep and 10-15 feet wide. After about 75 feet, the run widens/opens as it is joined by the flow from the middle spring or Spring #2.
Spring #2 is the central and largest spring, forming a circular pool nearly 100 feet across and up to 20 feet deep. Water flows from limestone openings among sand, silt, and tree roots/branches and is very clear and clean. The spring is bright blue. There are large boils on the surface. The fringes of the pool are 4-6 feet deep, and the bottom is sandy, silty, and/or muddy depending on the location. A submerged tree above the spring vent serves as a perch for tall visitors. A line of trees surrounds the spring. Water flows directly into the run from Spring #1 and toward the run exit near Spring #3.
Spring #3 is much like Spring #2 in character, albeit somewhat smaller and with a more sandy and unobstructed bottom. It forms a circular and funnel-shaped pool about 45 feet across and 15-18 feet deep. Water flows from a couple of small limestone opening, and like the other springs is very clear and blue. The bottom is more sandy and firm than the other two springs. Land around this spring is semi-cleared and the site of a private residence.
The authors saw a couple of other small flow points/sand boils near the main springs or in the run, including one where the spring runs join to flow into the main canal. This combined spring run is about 10 feet wide, 3-5 feet deep, and flows about 100 feet to the main canal.
- The land around the springs is private and posted; no landfall or boat tie-up may be made.
- The mouth of the Three Sisters run is blocked by concrete posts to prevent boat access; only swimmers, canoers, and kayakers can enter.
- The area around the springs has been extensively channelized to allow homes to be built along channels and have access to King's Bay.
- The three springs are very popular with swimmers, snorkeler, paddlers, and divers, who come to swim and to see manatees.
- The spring is one of several manatee sanctuaries in Crystal River, and access is restricted from November 15-March 31 each year.
According to news stories, the owner of the land around Three Sisters Spring is seeking permits to extract water from the springs to bottle and sell it. The owner initially sought a permit to extract 1.2 million gallons per day. The request was later reduced to 426,000 gallons per day, and the owner is considering building a bottling company near the site. The state has made offers to purchase the land, but cannot by law pay more than the appraised value which the owners say is far less than its true development value. Environmentalists have decried the potential extraction, saying it may harm the manatees that shelter at the site in the winter by lowering the temperature of the water. The owner pledges to monitor the temperature and cease pumping when the temperature is too cold, and notes that 426,000 gallons is only a fraction of the daily 12,000,000 gallon output of the springs. (St. Petersburg Times, August 9, 2000, February 4, 2001). As of February 2003, the landowner was allowed by the SW Florida Water Management District to withdraw up to 100,000 gallons per day, and water had to be pumped from a site away from the spring. If water levels drop so that manatees cannot access the springs, the water management can further restrict water extraction.
The Three Sisters are among the authors’ top ten springs in Florida. Like a string of blue sapphires, they are spectacular blue oases of pristine water in an area that has become foul with pollution, algae blooms, and exotic plants. Although federal protection may mean the end of access for swimmers and divers, it would be worth it to preserve this unique site for manatees and for observation. The proposed water extraction might not hurt the manatees, but would be one more slip down the slope of development that has ravaged so many other springs in King’s Bay and elsewhere. Efforts should continue to work with the landowners to continue to preserve the site as much as possible.
- Other Crystal River/King’s Bay Springs (Artesian, Catfish, Gator [or Gator Hole], Grand Canyon, Hunter, Idiot’s Delight, Independence, Jurassic, King’s, Little Hidden, Mullet’s Gullet, Three Sisters, Unnamed Banana Island Springs, Unnamed Spring Boils)
- Homosassa Springs Group
- Chassahowitzka Springs Group
- Rainbow Springs Group
Other Nearby Natural Features
- Rainbow Springs State Park
- Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
- Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge
- Withlacoochie State Forest
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
1502 SE King’s Bay Drive
Crystal River, FL 34429