Thursday, July 1, 2010

Further Afield: King's Bay Florida

King’s Bay, specifically, Three Sisters Springs is well worth a visit. Get there early in the morning, get there directly, and enjoy the beautiful clear water in the quiet sanctuary surrounded by trees.
On our way to Three Sisters

Abandon boats and swim!

King’s Bay in Crystal City Florida is noted for divers and manatees, both brought there by the abundance of springs. The manatees are particularly drawn there in the winter months when cold water drives them to seek warm water. Divers are there year round, drawn to the sudden depths at the various springs. (Look down the page at the link for a side cut of a spring)
King’s Bay is not a large area, but it is an interesting paddle, there are marshes, and miles and miles of developed areas. There are also restaurants, ice cream stands and a town park (with parking, restrooms, swimming and picnic tables) for destinations. It is a huge gathering place for parties on weekends, the boats just line up and anchor in huge mobs.
These boats are gathering by Banana Island

We’ve been to Crystal River twice. When we were there last year in May a storm was in position just off the coast. High winds, temperatures in the mid 50’s and rain were the order of the day. The storm also kept the water in the bay at low tide, so manatees were unable to get into Three Sister’s Springs, but hung around the outlet in the warm water. This year, it was hot, with temperatures in the 90s.
Last year we went swimming at Three Sisters and were quite chilled. This year the water felt perfect. If you have never seen a spring, it is a place where water bubbles up from an underground source. The place where it bubbles up is a deep dark hole and the movement of water attracts many fish.

With last year's cooler temperatures, algae growth through King’s Bay was not as bad. We could see fish in many areas. Hunter’s Spring, the town park, was quite clear, and we saw alligator gar lounging on the side. This year the only clear water was at the mouth of Three Sister’s Spring, everywhere else the water was green. At Hunter’s Spring green algae crowded around the edge of the spring threatening to coat us as we swam to shore.
However, in the steamy hot weather, the abundance of springs throughout the bay showed a true advantage. All that cool water bubbling up made a microclimate over the bay, where it was a reasonable temperature for paddling.
Fish love the bay, birds love the bay, we even saw a dolphin driving fish into dead ends to catch them. The dolphin was chasing mullets, so with each cornering half a dozen mullet would leap in the air. And manatees love the bay. We were surprised and delighted to spot several manatees last year, and this year we saw a lone manatee, hanging around the kayak launch point. I wasn’t expecting it, I thought the cloudy water would keep our sightings down, but I was pleased nevertheless.

Kayaks and Beyond has the closest launch to Three Sister’s Spring. To protect the manatees, Three Sister’s Springs is closed to boats, including kayaks, from November through April, as are several other areas in the bay.
Another trip report.

Facilities at Hunter Spring

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