GREEN

Manatee Party Shuts Down Florida Refuge In The Best Possible Way

02/06/2015 02:38 pm ET | Updated Feb 06, 2015

Manatee lovers -- by which we mean the entire world -- get a look at this.

Three Sisters Springs in Florida's Crystal River Refuge has been periodically shut down to kayakers and swimmers this week, due to hundreds of manatees congregating in the warm, clear water:

manatees

Three Sisters, which is about 80 miles north of Tampa, is said to be the only clear-watered place in the United States where visitors can legally swim, snorkel and kayak with manatees.

But even though the animals do like to winter at Three Springs, where the water is a steady 72 degrees year-round, there usually aren't quite so many looking to shelter there all at once. (According to the Save the Manatee Club -- which is petitioning for more restricted access to manatees -- the gentle giants need temperatures of 68 degrees or warmer to survive winter cold.)

manatees

Andrew Gude, who manages Crystal River for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says he understands why those who've come for the unique opportunity of sharing space with these amazing, federally-protected marine mammals might be disappointed to find it closed.

But, when deciding whether or not to keep the springs open to visitors, he tells The Huffington Post he has to ask himself: "What are the manatees telling us?"

In this case, when some 300 manatees rushed the springs on Monday, they were suggesting that allowing people into the important refuge during this sweet-looking manatee party wouldn't be ideal at the moment.

manatees three sisters

Even if you can't get in the water, you can still see lots of manatees from the Three Sisters boardwalk, which remains open. Photo courtesy Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex via Facebook

Keep tabs on the Three Sisters Springs manatees on the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex Facebook page.

Know a great place to see manatees? Have another animal story to share? Get in touch at arin.greenwood@huffingtonpost.com!

Also on HuffPost:

Carol Grant's pictures of manatees in Three Sisters Springs
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