Visit to Three Sisters Springs for Refuge Week

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A few days ago I visited one of my favorite places, Three Sisters Springs, part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. It is Refuge Week all across the country. Hurricane Michael passed just four days before my visit. Although Crystal River was spared significant flooding, Refuge Day was canceled. I still wanted to see how the springs fared, so I ventured there to check things out. No manatees were near Three Sisters as it’s still too hot for most manatees to make their way to Three Sisters. Also a cleanup project is ongoing in the canal out front of the springs, so the noise will discourage a manatee approaching the area. The project will soon be complete though, and we should have a cleaner canal.

My visit to Three Sisters Springs for Refuge Week. The blue sky was stunning. Sunday, October 14th.

The Three Sisters boardwalk and property was closed as it still had a little high water from the storm. Three Sisters Springs land access was reopened the following day, October 15th.

The springs were a little stirred up with extra particulate matter, but not too bad. That’s partially due to the hurricane but also from the work being done out front. A loud pump is audible in the front channel, cleaning up the sediment, invasive lyngbya algae and planting aquatic grass.

One interesting thing I hadn’t seen back in Three Sisters before were three dense patches of the same eelgrass currently being planted in the canals. Some of the grass evidently made its way back in the springs as it hadn’t been directly planted there to my knowledge? The three patches of aquatic grass were near three of the spring outflows. I saw a similar thing at Hunter Springs. The eelgrass seems to prefer shallow areas with lots of water flow?

A sizable patch of eelgrass right by one of the Pretty Sister spring outflows. Sunday, October 14th.

Location of eelgrass patch near one of the Pretty Sister spring outflows. When manatees arrive it will disappear quickly. Sunday, October 14th.

And there was more aquatic grass, I assume eelgrass, patches near Little Sister spring and Big Sister spring.

Patch of aquatic grass in back of Little Sister spring vent. Sunday, October 14th.

Closeup of Little Sister patch of eelgrass.

Big Sister spring patches of aquatic grass wasn’t as thick or as lush. It’s spread around the old fallen tree trunk here. Sunday, October 14th.

For me, the patches of aquatic grass were very interesting. It’s something I have never seen back in Three Sisters Springs. I’ve seen thin grasses in small amounts at the beginning of manatee seasons, but nothing like these three thick patches near the spring outflows. Were they planted? Not to my knowledge. I think the grass made its way back in the springs from the planting project in the front canal. Again, the grass seems to favor areas with lots of clear water flow.

Regardless of what’s up with the seagrass, this visit was all about Refuge Week and seeing how Three Sisters Springs fared through Hurricane Michael. Here’s a couple of pics of me. Yes, a little goofy, but when I don’t have manatees to photo…, well…?

Look close! See the dragonfly near my snorkel? My snorkel tip is above water and that dragonfly must have liked my exhale? It hung around for several frames. Maybe it liked my breath? 😉 Sunday, October 14th.

Yes, I’m a little water logged with a goofy smile. But, hey, you should look so good after swimming a mile and photographing! 😉

I’ll be glad when it cools and manatees appear at Three Sisters Springs. Until then, some manatees are currently hanging around various areas in Kings Bay. We saw several on this Sunday, despite the heat.

Happy Refuge Week! Get out and explore your National Wildlife Refuges!

Till next time, Carol