Home | Latest News | Events | Get Involved | About Us | Contact Us | Education
Our Wildlife | Salt Marsh Trails | Three Sisters Springs | Our Refuges | Documents & Links

Three Sisters Springs Fact Sheet

Three Sisters Springs, a 58-acre property in Crystal River, Florida contains five pristine, naturally-occurring springs. An ecological marvel, Three Sisters is one of the state's last remaining urban springs. During the winter months as well as critical cold fronts, the springs are home to more than 150 endangered manatees, a beloved species known for being a "gentle giant." The property will be preserved from development and managed as a wildlife refuge.

  • Acquired July 28, 2010
  • Winter of 2009 approximately 250 manatees were counted using Three Sisters Springs
  • 57 Acres with approximately only 1 acre of spring surface
  • Purchased at $10.5M which was approximately $2 Million less than fair market value
  • FACT – 50% of manatees rescued in Kings Bay in the past 5 years have taken place at Three Sisters Springs
  • Ownership City/SWFWMD 70/30
  • FACT - Lake Linda:
  • Man-made lake dug in 1974
  • 8 total acres in size
  • Currently it is 40 feet deep
  • Water clarity may be due to unintentional cracked spring vent that feeds into the lake
  • Covered in exotic Hydrilla
  • High depth of the lake prevents most wildlife such as wading birds and shorebirds from using it
  • Fish species include large-mouth bass and bluegill
  • Managed by US Fish and Wildlife Service as part of Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
  • Originally a lowland swamp, Lake Linda was dredged and filled used for development
  • FACT - Population of wintering manatees inside Three Sisters Springs has increased by 500% in the past five years  (from 50 to 250)

The acquisition of the Three Sisters Springs project was a unique opportunity to protect Florida's threatened West Indian Manatee, greatly enhance local water quality and bolster the character and economy of the City of Crystal River, Florida. The Friends of Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, along with the National Wildlife Refuge Association, brought together an unusual slate of public and private partners to bring this special project to fruition. Through these efforts, Three Sisters Springs, an internationally important manatee refuge and tourist destination, permanently became protected with a large conserved space in the heart of the City of Crystal River, with educational and low-impact recreation opportunities for citizens and visitors.

Three Sisters Springs is one of Florida's last remaining urban spring areas, an ecological marvel that supports a winter population of manatees in excess of 150, who rest, breed and give birth in the springs. Three Sisters Springs is also a critical element of local ecotourism. People journey from around the world to the site and the adjacent Crystal River NWR Complex in Kings Bay to see and swim in proximity to manatees in the crystal-clear waters. The refuge aids in preserving Florida's most significant naturally occurring warm water area for the manatee and provides critical habitat for approximately 25 percent of the nation's manatee population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ranked Three Sisters Springs as its highest priority acquisition for conservation as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System in the 10-state Southeast Region.

Community Impacts:
In recent years, as costs of developing in Central Florida have risen, Crystal River and Kings Bay have begun to attract Central Floridians seeking retirement and vacation homes in a scenic setting that melds with the natural environment. Furthermore, the ecotourism attraction of manatees inhabiting the watery wildlife refuge complex that weaves through the area is increasingly recognized as a strong economic opportunity and new revenue source. Businesses that cater to manatee viewing around Crystal River are beginning to flourish. The spectacular sight of manatees underwater and surfacing throughout Kings Bay is an international attraction.

However, this growing attention also constitutes a threat to manatees. The Three Sisters project helps strike a balance between manatee protection and the community benefits of ecotourism by guiding the public to appropriate low-impact manatee viewing stations. At the present time, this property is the only existing public destination in this area where tourists can go to view a manatee from land. The crystal-clear warm spring waters of Three Sisters are not only a favorite wintertime destination for manatees; they are a spectacular natural location for viewing manatees as they spend time enjoying the fresh water flow. The Three Sisters Project helps to protect this unmatched land-based area for viewing manatees, but also supports the growing ecotourism industry and ensures the fresh water quality of greater Kings Bay.