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Monday, March 24, 2014

Crystal River, Three Sisters Springs - Swimming in the Springs

Crystal River and Three Sisters Springs, March 24, 2014    
Miles Traveled 6.9, Total 259.5
Rain predicted - never came, high 68degrees, slightly cloudy skies
Total time kayaking 4:40 (put in about 10:00??)
Average moving speed 2.5 mph, Max speed 5 mph
Me, Scotty, Dina, Dick

We put in at Hunter Park.  It's a nice little park right inside a community.  There were picnic tables here, a restroom, and already a family enjoying the water.   Homes line the canals here, and the water was crystal clear - we were excited to get into it and start paddling.  We paddled towards the left and went down a few canals, and realized we weren't going much further.  We went back to the park and past Petes Pier and past many beautiful homes down to Three Sister's Spring.  There is a small canal/creek that leads from the river back to the springs and it is lined with lots of vegetation and a walkway on either side.  There was also a ranger there and he informed us that the manatees had left a few days ago.  Apparently, this area can be crowded with up to 200 manatees at a time.  It's a sight I would love to see!  Once in the springs, Scotty jumped out to swim, but other boaters there said he could be fined for leaving his boat.  The ranger was very nice and told us we could leave our yaks out in the river and swim in.  So out we paddled to the river. I had no intention of swimming as the air was cold, until Scotty said "When will you be back here again?"  So into the 72 degree water I went.  It felt cold until I started swimming and then it felt great.  We swam across the river, down the creek and into the springs.  It was crystal clear and really neat to be swimming around seeing fish and plant life.  It reminded us of the Bahamas, except that this was not salty water.  We saw where the springs came bubbling up from, and had fun taking photos under the water of ourselves, the fish, and Dick's and Dina's kayaks.  We swam for about 45 minutes.  As we were leaving, a large group of snorkelers on a tour were coming into the springs - perfect timing.  With much grace, I got back into my kayak (and Scotty too).  We paddled back to Hunters Park and had lunch along the river on the grass.  We had a great view of beautiful homes, a large azalea bush, graceful white birds and of course, the crystal clear river.  We saw many birds along the river, and lots of tour boats.  We'd pull up near a tour boat where they had just seen a manatee.  Unfortunately, we never saw any…Scotty did see a head at one time.
After loading up our yaks, we drove 30 minutes to Ross Prairie campground, an equestrian campground surrounded by lots of horsetrails.  We set up camp near the pavillion as rain was predicted that night.  If it rained really hard, we could go under the permanent pavilion.  We made our dinners, sat around and looked at our photos.  The showers here were very nicely tiled and large.  There was a light outside our tent, and a highway nearby so we didn't get a great night's sleep.  It did end up raining during the night and our tent cover was wet when we took it down the next morning.

During the cold months, there are hundreds of manatees in this river and in the springs.

Look at that beautiful crystal clear water!

Leading into the springs.

Three Sisters Springs

There are pilings separating the creek into the springs from the river.  We swam into the springs.

This is where the water is bubbling up from below, maybe about 30 feet down.

We saw fish!

Dick's and Dina's yaks from below and that is Dick's hand in the water with his camera.

I swam over this school of fish.

This is the bird we watched while we ate lunch, it's an ibis.

These cormorants seem to own this floating dock.

Ross Prairie, the equestrian campground.

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