To escape winter's coming chill, manatees are beginning to migrate to our warm freshwater springs in Citrus County.
We’ve definitely been having an unusually warm winter so far, but that is likely to change in the next few weeks. Even the coldest Florida weather is still wonderful compared to most of the other states, but it will get noticeably chilly in the evenings here pretty soon.
Though the cooler evening temperatures are expected and sometimes welcome to the residents living at the Villages of Citrus Hills, there are quite a few mammals making their homes in the waters surrounding us that are going to be looking for warmer waters.
The winter months along the Gulf Coast are known as “manatee season” because this is the time of year where you can find large groups of manatees making their way up inland to enjoy the natural warm water springs located around Citrus County.
That makes this the perfect time of year to get out and meet some of these massive sea animals face-to-face…and we’ve got the perfect places to do just that!
Annual Florida Manatee Festival
January is the month when Citrus County holds its Annual Florida Manatee Festival. This two-day event is sponsored by the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, the City of Crystal River, and the Rotary Club of Crystal River.
In addition to appreciating local manatees in their natural environment, visitors to the festival at the corner of US 19 and Citrus Ave in downtown Crystal River will also be able to explore a fine arts show and watch a variety of live entertainment. This year’s Annual Florida Manatee Festival is scheduled for Saturday, January 16 and Sunday, January 17.
Want another good reason to celebrate at this year’s festival? According to a recent statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manatees are no longer an endangered species and should be downgraded soon to “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act.
In 1991 there were approximately 1,267 manatees in Florida, but as a result of conservation efforts over the last few decades, that number has grown to more than 6,300!
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
If the Annual Florida Manatee Festival doesn’t work out well with your schedule, you can also see lots of manatees anytime you like at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
Many of the manatees you find here will be captive animals that are being rehabilitated for their eventual release back out into the wild. But while they are getting healthy, you can actually meet them face-to-face without getting wet thanks to the park’s underwater observation area.
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
For those who are more interested in seeing manatees in a more natural environment, spending a day exploring the waters of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is an almost certain way to run into a different groups of sea cows.
If you are an avid kayak or canoe enthusiast, that is really the best way to get up close and personal. Just make sure that you have a good understanding of proper manatee etiquette!
Three Sisters Springs
One spot where you can catch a glimpse of live manatees without getting into the water is the boardwalk at Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River. This used to be only accessible by boat, but the boardwalk now allows anyone to walk right up to the water and see the manatees that gather here during the winter months.
No matter what type of manatee adventure you are looking for, the best way to have an enjoyable experience is to work with a local tour guide. These experts know the waters of Citrus County better than anyone and can make sure you get the exact manatee experience you are looking for.