Kings Bay, at the head of the Crystal River in Citrus County, is probably the best place in the world to see and photograph the very special Florida Manatee.
Every winter, as water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico drop to the low 70’s Fahrenheit, hundreds of the Florida Manatee migrate up the Crystal River to seek refuge in the warm waters of Kings Bay.
From around 50 in the 1970’s, up to 500 manatees now visit Kings Bay every winter.
They come because of the dozens of fresh water springs that pump huge quantities of warm water up from the massive Floridian Aquifer beneath the state.
For, despite its rotund appearance, the Florida Manatee has virtually no body fat or blubber to keep it warm. At water temperatures below 68 deg F it simply cannot maintain its core body temperature and will die of cold stress unless it can find a source of warmth.
Those warm waters of Kings Bay allow the manatees to restore their core temperature and survive the cold snap.
The Florida Manatee is listed as “endangered” and fully protected by State and Federal legislation, but in Crystal River tourists are still allowed to enter the water with them and enjoy limited interaction.
Crystal River is simply the only place in the USA where that is possible!
In February 2014 I spent 10 days at Crystal River photographing and experiencing the Florida Manatee first hand. They really are a unique creature and I documented the whole experience on several pages on this site as detailed on the sidebar of this page.
I have also wrote an extended article for issue 19 of the highly regarded Anima Mundi wildlife magazine and you can download the Manatees of the Crystal River article on this link, or download the whole issue from the Anima Mundi site.