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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Crystal River

Swallow Tailed Kite
Rookie mistake. It was the worst possible decision to go to Crystal River without checking the forecast. But the prospect of swimming with manatees was stronger than the common sense. Well, no manatees and a lost battle with the super strong wind on the Crystal River. Ended up at the Chassahowitzka River trying to save the day. Did snorkel Three Sisters though so it was not all bad, not that bad should I say.

Lesser Scaup
Put In / Take Out: We used the facilities of the Hunter Springs Park in Crystal River. The location is NE 1st Ave, Crystal River. It is a short walk from the unloading zone to the kayak/canoe launch zone and there are restrooms there. Did not see a pay box so I assumed it is no charge. If it turns out that there is a charge will pay double on my next trip there, I promise.

Brown Pelicans
I mentioned at the opening that it was a bad decision to go to Crystal River. It really was. The wind was very strong coming from the south and it was, as you can expect, choppy. The paddle from Hunter Springs Park to the canal leading to Three Sisters Spring was tough. At one point a wind gust stopped us right on the spot and wifey says she felt the yak lifting from the bow. I thought it was just that we caught a wave but would not be surprised if she was right. It was a little bit better once we reached the canal but then we had to deal with the many boats carrying people to the spring. At least we did not pay $45 each to be there.

Nesting Anhingas...Can you see the blue ring in the anhinga's eyes?
Did You Know That? The anhingas have that blue ring around their eyes while in breeding plumage and even the eggs, females lay from three to five eggs, have a blue-ish color. The chicks hatch in about a month. 

The fact that I spent two days in a meeting on a local hotel this past week had a lot to do with my decision to visit Crystal River on Saturday. You know, two days of seeing people up and down in kayaks, seeing a bald eagle soaring and perched in the distance at Banana Island, which I was able to see from the distance, and then my co-workers' pics of manatees in a cruise boat they took Monday night (I did not go), was too much for me to take. So headed there without any concerns of the weather at all. Did not even try to check how it was. Huge mistake. Do not do that. I felt like reached a new level of stupidity. Anyways, what is done is done. Back to the few positives.


Three Sisters Spring
We barely made it to the canal leading to Three Sisters but once inside the canal it was an easier paddle. We stopped to take pics of the Osprey above in a tree located at one of the house's backyard. We arrived at the entrance of the springs where at least 5 boats with snorkelers were already doing business. Told my wife that I was jumping into the water and swimming to the spring because we cannot take the yak into the zone. At least that is what I thought but then a lady in a kayak came out of the spring, followed by three more kayaks. I asked her if there were any manatees, which we did not see in the sanctuary area, and she said that there were none inside. "The manatees are at the bay" she said. I was surprised to see the kayaks coming out of Three Sisters since I thought it was prohibited. My wife asked me to go inside then and we did so. The beauty of the place was worthy of the 111 miles trip from home. Take out the dozens of snorkelers stirring the bottom and it is perfect but in the same token they, or you, can say the same about us kayakers.

Three Sisters Springs 

Three Sisters Spring
My original plan was to paddle to Three Sisters and then explore the Crystal River area. Did not take into consideration the weather conditions and paid the price. There was no way I was going to put my wife thru the pain of paddling under the choppy conditions at the river. So decided to cut it short and return to Hunter Springs Park. On our way there we saw a bald eagle high in the sky. Wifey tried to take a photo but it was impossible to hold the yak steady for her in the river. It was like riding a horse. At one point I was observing the eagle and did not realize how fast and close to a boat at the Peter's Pier we were. Almost went head on against the docked boat. Was able to control the yak and made it to the canal leading to the park where we rested for about one hour before deciding what to do next. The decision? Go to the Hillsborough River, one hour and change from Crystal River. We never made it there though. Driving South on US19  saw the maintenance building for the Chassahowitzka Wild Preserve decided to change course to The Chassahowitzka River. Here are some pics of the few things we saw at Crystal River.

Laughing Gulls


Bald Eagle. Not the best pic but the best from this trip.

Swallow Tailed Kite

Yellow-Rumped Warbler



Lesser Scaups. Two females flank the male in the center of the pic.

Swallow Tailed Kite

A mixed view of Three Sisters Spring

That was pretty much it. Not the best day because I know this place can offer much more. I just picked the wrong day. We will be back.Here is the link to the photo album slideshow in Photobucket: Crystal River. Thanks for reading and check the next post at the Chassahowitzka River, where we went trying to save the day.

View of our kayak at Three Sisters Spring.


  1. I take it the choppy forecast was correct. ;)

    I wanted to go Chasahowitzka today, paddled the Hillsborough instead. 80% protected from the wind. Not a bad plan B.

    1. We went to The Chaz in a desperation move. The Hillsborough was still one hour and change away from Crystal River. It was not much, maybe a little better. Bottom line: Very tough day.