View of the Crystal River Springs Group and Banana Island from an altitude of 2,000 feet. Tarpon Spring (aka King Spring) is centered in the cluster of boats about 150 ft. offshore, lower left side of the island.
These springs are in and around Kings Bay, at the town of Crystal River, and are the headwaters of Crystal River which discharges to the Gulf of Mexico. Crystal River is about 60 miles north of Tampa and 30 miles west of Ocala.
Crystal River is well known for it's manatee abundance in the winter. On a given weekend, you can practically walk across the water on the backs of snorkelers without getting your feet wet. There are often open water class doing their check out dives in the springs in the mornings. The best time to get there to see the manatees is day break or even before 7 o'clock in the morning. There are numerous springs in the area, but Tarpon Springs (aka King's Spring) is usually the most popular for snorkelers and divers. If you really want to see the manatees without the crowds, I suggest trying one of the other springs. A great resource for manatee information is the Save The Manatees website. This sites contains a lot of information including applicable states laws regarding how you may interact with them as well as an underwater camera at Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park. Their web page can be found here. There was a fatality in the main spring 3/28/04 here or here if the link no longer works.
A brief description, from Florida Geological Survey, Bulletin #31 (Crystal River), of some of the 30 known springs making up the group follows:
Tarpon Spring, aka Crystal Spring or King's Spring, is subaqueous and is located on the south side of Banana Island. It is reported to be one of the finest freshwater dive sites in the State owing to its excellent visibility, size, convenience of access, and potential for underwater photography. Tarpon Spring is about 65 ft deep and 200 ft in diameter. On calm days, or at low tide, it has a slight boil or "slick." An adjacent spring (to the east) is reported to have a more vigorous flow. Although lights are useful to look around, I prefer to swim to the end of the cavern without a light and look around as my eyes adjust. Swimming out is incredible as there are often hundreds of fish conjugated around the two exits.
American Legion Spring is beneath a diving board at a public beach on Hunter Spring Run, at the south edge of Crystal River. It is operated as a county park with free parking and access.
Gator Hole may also be known as Magnolia Spring or Crystal Spring. It is about 0.5 mi. S. of Crystal River. Gator Hole is reported to have had rock spires and an extensive cave system that collapsed about 1963.
Idiots Delight is a group of three vertical shafts at least 20 ft in depth. The largest is reported to be 5 ft in diameter. Idiots Delight is about 0.25 mi. SE. of Gator Hole and also on the east side of Kings Bay.
Three Sisters Springs, also known as Middle Springs, is a few hundred feet north of Idiots Delight.
Shark Sink is on the west side of the Bay. It reportedly developed when
its roof suddenly collapsed about 1905. Shark Sink is 45 to 48 ft deep.
Click here for King's Spring map
Click here for Crystal River State Archaeological Site web site
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