Tuesday, February 16, 2010

02/16/2010 - Crystal River Three Sisters Springs

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1) Having never been to Crystal River in Florida, I made a quick stop at the Three Sisters Springs to see the manatees. The place was like a zoo. Tour boats, snorkeling boats, and diving boats were anchored all over the place. I was caught in a mix of the boats on the way to the springs and one impatient operator was rather rude trying to pass me in a narrow area and I was already closely following a slow motorboat in front of me and had no where to move. Add in a mix of kayaks, swimmers and gusting winds and you have a recipe for disaster. One kayaker almost got hit by a motor boat - neither saw each other because they were watching for manatees.

2) The roped off area full of hibernating manatees was off limits to everyone but that didn't matter - manatees were abundant all over the area.

3) The chilly water and cold air temperature didn't seem to bother some people. The US Fish and Wildlife service was there to prevent anyone from entering the canal to the Three Sisters Springs. Rehabilitated manatees were being released at the springs. For more info on the release, click here.

4) Efforts are being made to purchase Three Sisters Springs - click here for more info. The canal entrance to the Three Sisters Springs can be seen in the background and it is off limits to motor boats. The whole area outside of the springs should be off limits to motorboats with propellers, too!

5) There were a lot of people involved in the manatees release and TV news crews were there to cover the event. After the rehabilitated manatees got settled in, we were allowed to enter the springs area.

6) There were another 60 or so manatees in the Three Sisters Springs area where the water was crystal clear.

7) There were plenty of people snorkeling and doing under water filming with the manatees.

8) One of the smaller manatees had some nasty looking scars from an encounter at some point with a boat propeller - perhaps an impatient diving boat operator did the damage. All tour motorboats should be banned in the area. Divers and swimmers should have to get in the water from a land based area like a dock, in my opinion.

9) Several manatees nuzzled the side of my green kayak - it was love at first sight. A lot of people got a kick out of seeing the manatees push me around.

10) On the way back to the launch site, we encountered a manatee hooked up with a radio tracking device seen in the water near the back of the red kayak. A small buoy, about the size of the ones used for crab traps, kept the antenna above water. With a chord between the manatee and the buoy, it seems like an unsafe tracking method but they supposedly have break away parts in case anything gets tangled.

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