This was my fourth Thanksgiving since I purchased my kayak. Year one I paddled Turkey Creek, the last two, the Homosassa River. I thought of going back to Homosassa, but decided on Crystal River instead. I had thoughts of paddling both, but after spending seven hours on and in Kings Bay and 4 springs, I came home.
>A bank clock read 40 degrees as I drove into the City of Crystal River.
I arrived at Hunters Spring Park before seven. To discover it opens at eight, and has a gate. So, to the ramp in the Birds Underwater/Charlies Restaurant parking lot. In the foggy water at 7:15.
I saw my first manatee as I approached Pete's Pier. Truthfully, I did not see the manatee, just a satellite tracking float. I've seen these devices attached to rehabilitated manatees in the St Johns River and Blue Spring, this was the first I've seen outside that manatee hotspot. Here is float from later in the day.
The manatees had the holidays confused.
Trick 'r treat, smell my feet. I don't have a rhyme for nuzzle my shin.
One of the two snorkelers I saw earlier had her toes inspected.
We struck up a conversation. Turns out she has seen this site, and I've seen a lot of her excellent photos and video. We both are contributors to the Green Wave Forum. Google "flkrakr" to see some very nice stuff.
I was in the water 45 minutes. Back in the yak, out the run in the rapidly clearing water.
A woodstork in the canal/run.
I hung out at the Magnolia Springs Sanctuary. Lots of manatees in the refuge, plenty outside as well.
My next stop was King Spring, the largest of the 30 springs in Kings Bay. Last Christmas Day, it was just me, manatees and giant tarpon. Today, four tour boats were disgorging snorkelers, so I passed. I did have a nice chat with two "Manatee Watch" volunteers. Kayakers who, if needed, give folks friendly reminders of how to properly interact with manatees. Boiled down to, look, don't touch. I paddled around Banana Island, King Spring located on the south side, then paddled back towards where I launched. Towards, not to, paddling up Hunters Creek Run to the park that had been closed earlier in the day. I good place to visit the restroom, eat a pear, and snorkel the second magnitude spring.
Manatees, jack crevale, and snapper.
After my snorkel I made sure I showered. Signs at the Park warn of the possibility of a rash after swimming. I swam here once before, showered, and a day or two later, had a rash in both inner thighs. So I made sure I opened up the trunks to clean all areas.
Back in the yak, I made another visit to Three Sisters, but first, I stopped at the Magnolia Springs sanctuary. The tide was low, manatees were outside the refuge, and I saw a shallow water anchorage. I've always wanted to snorkel here, so I got out. Of course, as I did, a power boat came in, and despite the skipper cutting the engine, the manatees went into hiding. I snorkeled about, and din not see any. Of course, once I stopped, and got back in the kayak, several manatees made their appearance.
I paddled to Three Sisters, which now had the clarity the make it a great snorkel spot.
Not to mention manatees.
Now it was time to call it a day. I paddled back to the launch point, and rounding Petes Pier, saw a dolphin. Only the second one I've see on the Crystal River. The other was my first visit, when I launched at Fort Island Park, several miles downriver. I tried to take a picture. As I did, a second dolphin surfaced behind me. They headed north, I followed. A few more glimpses, no pictures. They did lead me to two final highlights of the holiday. A soaring bald eagle, and
Family and friend will see what I mean when they see the name of the boat.
Flkrakr kindly sent some of the pictures she took. This gives a good perspective of how thick the manatees were outside Three Sisters. It was hard to find a place to stand.