Where to Kayak With Manatees in Florida (2022)

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Contents

  • 1 WHERE TO KAYAK WITH MANATEES IN FLORIDA
    • 1.1 What are Manatees
    • 1.2 Why Do You Go Manatee Kayaking?
    • 1.3 When Are Manatees Easiest To See?
    • 1.4 Safest Way to Kayak with Manatees
    • 1.5 Top Best Places to Kayak with Manatees
      • 1.5.1 1. Three Sisters Springs
      • 1.5.2 2. Blue spring state park
      • 1.5.3 3. Manatee Springs State Park
      • 1.5.4 4. Manatees Visit Lee County Manatee Park
      • 1.5.5 5. Tarpon Springs
      • 1.5.6 6. Crystal River
      • 1.5.7 7. Hunter Springs
      • 1.5.8 8. Homosassa Springs
      • 1.5.9 9. Weeki Wachee
      • 1.5.10 10. Chassahowitzka River
    • 1.6 Summary of Where to Kayak with Manatees in Florida
    • 1.7 Read More
(Video) Kayaking With Manatees In Crystal River, Florida

WHERE TO KAYAK WITH MANATEES IN FLORIDA

Manatees are well-known in Florida, where they swim into rivers searching for food and warmer waters, particularly in the winter and spring. If you haven’t seen and interacted with manatees up close, you’re missing out on a truly breathtaking and unforgettable experience. You should visit Florida’s freshwater springs and have your fill of fun and delight with these ancient animals. But where to kayak with manatees in Florida?

So, if you wonder where to kayak with manatees in Florida waters, here are a few of the best places to look for manatees.

Where to Kayak With Manatees in Florida (1)

Manatees are gentle sea mammals.

What are Manatees

The manatee is a massive sea animal with a smooth tail and an egg-shaped head. The term sea cows refers to manatees. Despite their size and the bulky, stubby snout, many ocean visitors find manatees to be charming and cuddly. These big, slow-moving marine mammals find in coastal areas and waterways. Thus, Florida spring-breakers often see them and might decide it would be a bright idea to join them for a swim.

Why Do You Go Manatee Kayaking?

It’s not just because of their height that they’re worth kayaking. Manatees have exciting characteristics that make seeing them so enjoyable. For example, they have chubby, puppy-like faces, a large body that seems to strain to pass through water.

A manatee’s tail is broad, paddle-shaped, and uniformly rounded, and it swings up and down as the animal swims, making for an exciting sight to see. Furthermore, manatees are more inclined to engage you for contact while you are in their environment.

When Are Manatees Easiest To See?

Florida’s climate cools during the winter months of November to April. The temperatures along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts drop below 70 degrees, causing manatees to search out warm water environments. The manatees stay warm by entering the natural warm-water pools, which remain steady 72 degrees even in the winter. The colder springs offer an ideal environment for large groups of mammals to congregate for food, rest, and mating.

(Video) Kayaking Weeki Wachee Spring State Park | Florida Manatees

Safest Way to Kayak with Manatees

While having many manatees in one location is exciting, it’s essential to keep in mind that the animals are there to live. To prevent disrupting their sleeping or eating patterns, you must engage with them from a distance and on the water surface, whether you are kayaking alone or in a group. Even if you see manatees sleeping, avoid pursuing or upsetting them. Never use your foot or hands to poke, slash, or push a manatee.

Keep Manatees Safe, too! See the FWC guidelines

Top Best Places to Kayak with Manatees

1. Three Sisters Springs

Three Sisters Springs is a series of three springs that feed into Kings Bay and one of Crystal River’s few undeveloped tracts. Its transparent blue hues produce an atmosphere, making it one of Florida’s most breathtaking springs. Three Sisters Springs, the main winter haven for manatees on the Gulf Coast, is one of the most well-known manatee hot spots.

During the summer, from April to November, up to 40 manatees can be found. Although there are specific guidelines for communicating with them, visitors can swim, kayak, or paddle with them on a planned trip. The crystalline blue waters of one of the state’s most visually beautiful springs contribute to the breathtaking feeling of watching manatees glide under the sea. A trolley tour starting from the Three Sisters Springs Center every half-hour provides access to the boardwalk for visitors. The Trolley can also reach Hunter Springs Park.

2. Blue spring state park

Blue Spring State Park has been designated as a manatee sanctuary, providing outstanding viewing opportunities. The warm water of Blue Spring, which is 72 degrees, has welcomed warmth from the colder St. Johns River. With the transparent spring on one end and the St. Johns River on the other, the Blue Spring Run, the key manatee viewing area, is surrounded by a half-mile boardwalk.

Make a point of visiting this famous place first thing in the morning. As the day warms, the manatees will venture out into the St. Johns River to drink. The sooner you arrive, the less crowded it will be.

The best time to see manatees at Blue Springs is in January when the weather is consistently cold. You can also watch live manatees via the Save the Manatee organization’s webcam at Blue Spring.

3. Manatee Springs State Park

Manatees migrate up the Suwannee River in search of Florida’s springs during the colder months. A related run in Manatee Springs State Park leads manatees into the spring area. The months of November through April are the best for kayaking with manatees in a spring state park.

4. Manatees Visit Lee County Manatee Park

This 17-acre oasis is ideal for a day out with the whole family, thanks to its safe refuge, observation deck, and landscaped garden. Visitors of this non-captive natural habitat will see the species up close and in their entirety, thanks to the shallow waters. Visitors of all ages will enjoy the park’s attractions: guided hikes and educational opportunities, including a spectacular butterfly garden and several picnic facilities.

However, the easiest way to see the manatees is from a canoe or kayak. Manatee Park has many manatees outside of the fenced canal section, and kayakers can float among them. Manatees swam under our kayak and came up next to inspect us.

(Video) Clear Kayaking in the Crystal Clear Water With Manatees

5. Tarpon Springs

If you adore these gentle giants or want to see them in their natural habitat for the first time, these places have you covered. Manatees can see on the warmer “winter” months in Florida. Tarpon Springs, FL is a 45-minute drive from Tampa and is famous for its sponge fishing! During the winter months in Florida, it is also home to manatees. During manatee season, you can swim with the manatees in a transparent kayak on weekends.

6. Crystal River

Citrus County’s Crystal River, located north of Tampa and west of Orlando on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is home to a plethora of freshwater springs. It distinguishes being the largest gathering ground for Florida manatees in the United States, thanks to the first magnitude spring system in Kings Bay. It is one of the only places where you can snorkel, dive, and drift with manatees (from a safe distance). In fact, it is often the first choice of where to kayak with manatees in Florida.

During the cooler months, the Crystal River coils around Kings Bay, where more than 70 springs host hundreds of manatees. Several hundred outfits can drive you out on boats and loan you equipment; this is the only spot where you can swim with manatees.

7. Hunter Springs

Hunter Springs is a great place to see manatees if you want to kayak rather than swim. A walkway has been extended to this nearby community park, offering excellent manatee viewing opportunities. In addition, there is more parking, a kayak launch, and a beach spot. Hunter Springs Kayaks is a lot more than just a name.

It has everything you’ll need to spend your time on the water with manatees and get an authentic taste of Pure Florida. Hunter Springs also has its parking lot with access to the lake. Parking costs just $5 for the whole day. It is also possible to launch your kayak here.

8. Homosassa Springs

Homosassa Springs is well-known for viewing manatees while kayaking. The park is now available for visitors. And it hosts to a variety of species such as manatees, alligators, and bears. The river passes through an undeveloped region of mangrove islands and saltwater grass flats, a popular fishing spot with many motorboats.

It is one-hour filled with a fast and enjoyable journey that concludes in the “Blue Water,” a place outside the park. Indeed, here you can find many manatees congregating before accessing the colder springs. The “Blue Water” is a popular kayaking destination and a great place to see manatees.

9. Weeki Wachee

Weeki Wachee has a long history of being well-known. Manatees frequent the Weeki Wachee Canal, located on Florida’s Adventure Coast in Hernando County. Start at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park or paddle down the transparent waterway with a shallow sandy bottom in a kayak. You can float down the stream in a long, quick 5-mile, 3-hour kayak trip, or you can start your tour at Weeki Wachee Springs and paddle down the shallow, transparent waterway. You’re sure to see manatees and have a great time.

10. Chassahowitzka River

The Chassahowitzka River locates at south of Homosassa Springs in Citrus County. It’s a great place to see manatees, so you’ll need to go with a knowledgeable guide if you want to see more animals and spot the manatees. Moreover, it has Hunter Springs, a nearby city park with a walkway suitable for watching manatees. Hunter Springs now has a pool, a kayak launch, and more parking.

Summary of Where to Kayak with Manatees in Florida

Manatees live in Florida all year. These gentle giants can see floating off the coast during the season. When the cold weather hits in the winter, the Florida manatees will migrate to the natural hot springs spread throughout the state. Between November and March, Florida’s springs will continue to flood with manatees seeking shelter from the calmer waters of the ocean and gulf.

(Video) Manatees in the Mangroves : Kayaking in the Florida Keys

So, go to the places mentioned above to have a better experience of kayaking with manatees. If you like this information, do share it with others.

Read More

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List of Aquariums in Florida

Manatees, National Geographic

FWC Guidelines for Manatee Viewing

Manatee Facts by Live Science

FAQs

Where in Florida do you kayak with the manatees? ›

Three Sisters Springs, located in Crystal River, is one of Florida's most popular springs and is known to have hundreds of manatees resting inside of it at one time! You can take a tour of the springs and surrounding locations in a 100% clear kayak with Get Up And Go Kayaking in Crystal River!

What time of year can you kayak with manatees in Florida? ›

Manatee Season: Nov 15 - Mar 31

You can tie up your paddlecraft at a designated area near the entrance to swim inside, but please be aware that USFWS may temporarily close the springs to swimmers as well.

What is the best time of year to see manatees in Florida? ›

The peak season for observing manatees is November through April, and the local manatee population swells to its largest size between December and February. You can spot manatees in our waterways all year round, but the population is much smaller during the summer months.

Where is the best place to swim with manatees in Florida? ›

Crystal River, on the west coast of Florida, is the only place on the continent where swimming with manatees is permitted — and this top-rated Tripadvisor experience allows visitors to go on a three-hour adventure with an in-water guide who will take photos of the experience.

When can you kayak with manatees in Crystal River? ›

Swimming with manatees is a bucket list item for many travelers, and we provide the BEST eco-friendly experience possible. This is a 2.5-hour kayak and swim adventure that operates from November 15th through March 31st each year.

How much does it cost to swim with manatees in Crystal River? ›

How much do manatee tours cost? Our public manatee tours start at $59.95 and go up to $65 for peak manatee season (November-April). Private manatee tours are $449 for a boat that holds up to six people, larger private manatee tours can be arranged for an additional $75 per person.

Are there alligators in Crystal River Florida? ›

There are alligators in Crystal River. They live in King's Bay, and the surrounding canals. They are also found in Three Sisters Spring. Alligators can live in any body of freshwater in Florida.

Is Crystal River worth visiting? ›

Boasting of warm, spring-fed rivers, abundant natural beauty, a rich history, and a remarkable number of wildlife, Crystal River is a city worth visiting. You'll love exploring the lakes and rivers, diving in for delicious scallops, hiking through unspoiled forests, and swimming with the adorable manatees.

Can you touch manatees in Crystal River? ›

Remember - Look but don't touch manatees

The Crystal River and Kings Bay area is the only area in Florida where swimmers are monitored around manatees. Viewing guidelines and sanctuary rules must be followed.

Do alligators eat manatees? ›

No, they don't. Actually, while alligators may bite the satellite tags attached to manatees and occasionally prey on manatee calves, they don't ordinarily bother manatees. Attacks by alligators are very rare, and boat strikes still remain the prime cause of death among adult manatees.

What time of day do manatees come out? ›

The Three Sisters Springs is a quieter viewing and swimming spot but wherever you are, the best time to be with the manatees is early morning 6 am to 8.30 am when they are most active.

How much is it to get into Homosassa Springs? ›

Adults (age 13+), $13; children ages 6-12, $5; children 5 and under admitted free.

What month is best to swim with manatees? ›

But in the winter, manatees move to Florida in huge numbers to take advantage of the warm water gushing out of the springs. December, January and February are the best months to swim with manatees due to the large numbers. Make sure to take this into account when planning your trip.

Where can I swim with manatees for free? ›

There's only one place in North America where you legally swim with manatees, and that's in the Crystal River area— located about 90 minutes north of Tampa, on the west coast of Florida. The headwaters of Crystal River are known as Kings Bay, where the water temperature is a consistent 72 degrees year-round.

Are you allowed to touch manatees in Florida? ›

According to the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, it is illegal to molest, harass, disturb or—as Waterman found out—hug a manatee. Federal laws also protect the species, which is listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.

Can I bring my own kayak to Three Sisters Springs? ›

You can only take your kayak into the spring itself between April 1 and November 14, as the area is kept boat free in the winter for the manatees. While manatees are usually the main focus when kayaking at Three Sisters Spring, you will see plenty more wildlife, such as playful dolphins, birds, fish, and turtles.

How much does it cost to rent a kayak in Crystal River Florida? ›

$45.00 Single seat kayak. $55.00 Two seat kayak. $50.00 SUP.

How long does it take to kayak from Hunter springs to Three Sisters? ›

Three Sisters Spring is located in Kings Bay by the town of Crystal River. The nearest kayak launch is at Hunters Spring Park, about a 30 to 40 minute paddle away.

Are there snakes in Crystal River? ›

The timber rattlesnake and the southern copperhead are rare in Crystal River and are typically found in northern Florida, but if you've spent time outdoors in the Crystal River area, you've probably seen at least one of the four other venomous snakes.

What to wear to swim with manatees? ›

Dress for the occasion: Wear a wetsuit and snorkel gear. The wetsuit will help you float, keeping you close to the surface and not on the bottom where the manatees are resting. Knock first, but silently: Make your presence known with a dive flag within 100 feet of where you will be swimming.

Can you just swim in Crystal River? ›

Crystal River is a small town 65 miles north of Tampa and the only place in the US where you are legally allowed to swim with manatees. Manatees are large gentle mammals often called “sea cows” that live 60+ years and grow to over 3,000 pounds.

Are there sharks in Crystal River? ›

In Crystal River, you'll find some of the best shark fishing in the world. If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, full of plenty of catching and intense action, Crystal River is the right place for you to set out on your fishin' mission to catch Florida sharks.

Has anyone been attacked by an alligator in Crystal River? ›

The gator attacked the seventh-grader Wednesday evening in a spring-fed tributary of the Crystal River. State wildlife officers believe the gator was the 11-foot-3 1/2 -inch reptile they shot and killed Thursday.

Has a manatee ever attacked a human? ›

They are, in fact, curious animals who enjoy human interaction, and they enjoy interacting and staying around humans. As a result, manatees frequently approach swimmers or divers for a belly rub or close contact. To date, there has never been a record of manatees attacking any humans or even other animals.

Can you swim in Crystal Springs? ›

Located along Central Florida's "Nature Coast," Crystal River is one of the few places where you can swim with manatees. The springs flow at a constant 72 degrees, making the waters attractive to all sorts of swimmers in the winter.

What can I bring to Crystal River? ›

If you're planning to go to Crystal River, below is some important information about when to go, what to wear, and what to pack.
...
COVID-19 ESSENTIALS FOR 2022
  • N95 masks to use in crowded airports. ...
  • Travel disinfecting wipes. ...
  • Travel insurance. ...
  • A vaccine card protector. ...
  • Kids' KN95 masks. ...
  • Hand sanitizer.
4 Dec 2021

How close is Crystal River to the beach? ›

The Fort Island Gulf Beach is a little beach just 20 minutes drive away from downtown Crystal River. There is a sandy beach area you can relax and play on, a grassy and shaded picnic area, and a charming pier.

Can a manatee bite you? ›

Can a manatee bite you? Manatees are docile animals not interested in any manner of aggression. Actually, anatomically, the shape of a manatee snout is such that the animals cannot use its teeth to attack. So manatees don't bite and do not have body weapons for attacking perceived enemies.

Are manatees good to eat? ›

Manatee meat was a delicacy because it was the only source of meat on the island at a time when fish was eaten three times a day. So you can imagine what a treat manatee meat was. Also it is delicious because it is simply delicious, as good as beef and pork; some would say even better.

Where can I interact with manatees? ›

Citrus County is the only place in the United States where people can legally swim with wild manatees in their natural habitat.

Do sharks bother manatees? ›

Predators. Although predation has not been documented, scientists believe sharks, alligators, or crocodiles may occasionally attack West Indian manatees.

Do manatees fight sharks? ›

For the most part, manatees do not have any natural predators in the wild. It is often thought that animals such as sharks and alligators would be predators to this slow-moving, easy prey. While manatees, sharks, and alligators do all share the same habitat, manatees do not compete with sharks and alligators for food.

Are sharks around manatees? ›

In fact, sharks rarely encounter manatees as they do not often reside in the same waters. And since manatees spend most of their time in fresh water and only come into contact with sharks during a short period in the year, sharks are not typically well adapted to preying on manatees.

What is manatee season? ›

Florida Manatee season started on November 15 and runs through to March 31. As air and water temperatures have been dropping through cold fronts this year, manatees have moved south for warmer water refuge, and slower seasonal speed limits have gone into effect.

Should you swim with manatees? ›

Swimming with wild manatees is very safe… for you. When it comes to the manatees' safety, things get more complicated. Manatees' gentle disposition puts them at great risk from humans. Many manatees are scored with scars from boat propellors (the reason there are now “manatee zones” in most Florida waters).

What months can you swim with manatees in Florida? ›

The best months for swimming with manatees in Florida is from mid-November to late March. They gather in huge numbers at the springs only in the wintertime. They migrate to the springs when the sea temperature is too cold for them. The springs have a constant temperature of 20°C/68°F which they need to survive.

Can you kayak at Homosassa Springs? ›

Besides the beautiful water, kayaking in Homosassa Springs is also a great way to experience Florida's wildlife. The manatees are found throughout the springs, and you can even kayak alongside them.

Can I swim at Homosassa Springs? ›

You cannot independently swim in the springs of Homosassa Springs State Park. However, there are boats, private tours, and kayaks that will take you out to the Crystal River, where swimming is possible.

What is special about Homosassa Springs? ›

One of the unique features of the Homosassa headspring is that the main vent flows from three points underground with each vent having different salt content and water quality. The three sources blend together in the basin before exiting down the spring run and into the Homosassa River.

Why can you swim with manatees in Crystal River? ›

Why Crystal River, Florida? The warm waters of Crystal River and Kings Bay stay at an average of 72 degrees throughout the year. Since manatees can't tolerate water temperatures below 68 degrees, the warm shallow springs are a refuge for the animals during the winter.

Do you have to know how do you swim to snorkel with manatees? ›

You'll mainly only need to float, not swim, and if you are unfamiliar with using fins you can stir up the water and frighten the manatees. My trip with Sunshine River Tours included all of the necessary equipment. This is mainly a winter-time activity, since that's when the manatees migrate into the warm water to feed.

Are manatees in Crystal River now? ›

The manatee season at Crystal River NWR begins in mid-November and ends in late March. This is when the manatee sanctuaries go into effect. During the winter months, manatees come to the springs of Crystal River NWR to conserve the energy necessary to survive the cold Gulf waters.

Can you bring your own kayak to Crystal River? ›

You can take part in Crystal River, Florida kayaking with either your own boat or you can rent a kayak. Choose from single or double-seat kayaks or a SUP. Equipped with the right kayak for you, you'll spend a pleasant day spotting manatee, birds and other wildlife.

Can you swim for free at Crystal River? ›

You can swim or kayak into the springs from the river. Also the only water access is through the river. There is no fee for this.

Is Crystal River fresh or saltwater? ›

Each day in Crystal River fresh water from an abundance of area springs mixes with the salty seawater from the Gulf of Mexico. Nature's magic happens in an estuary, where the fresh water and salt water meet.

What is the best time of year to see manatees in Florida? ›

The peak season for observing manatees is November through April, and the local manatee population swells to its largest size between December and February. You can spot manatees in our waterways all year round, but the population is much smaller during the summer months.

Can you hug a manatee? ›

The more accustomed to humans they become, the more likely they are to suffer harm caused by stress and injury or death when moving too slowly through the water in the face of fast moving boats and so according to the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, it is illegal to molest, harass, disturb or hug a manatee!

How do you get a manatee to come to you? ›

Use snorkel gear and float near the surface. This will allow manatees to come to you. Swim quietly without kicking your feet or splashing the water. Noise and increased activity may startle resting sea cows and put them in harm's way should they get frightened and suddenly flee the area.

Are the manatees in Crystal River now? ›

The manatee season at Crystal River NWR begins in mid-November and ends in late March. This is when the manatee sanctuaries go into effect. During the winter months, manatees come to the springs of Crystal River NWR to conserve the energy necessary to survive the cold Gulf waters.

What is the best time of year to swim with manatees? ›

But in the winter, manatees move to Florida in huge numbers to take advantage of the warm water gushing out of the springs. December, January and February are the best months to swim with manatees due to the large numbers. Make sure to take this into account when planning your trip.

Can you touch manatees in Crystal River? ›

Remember - Look but don't touch manatees

The Crystal River and Kings Bay area is the only area in Florida where swimmers are monitored around manatees. Viewing guidelines and sanctuary rules must be followed.

Are there alligators in Crystal River Florida? ›

There are alligators in Crystal River. They live in King's Bay, and the surrounding canals. They are also found in Three Sisters Spring. Alligators can live in any body of freshwater in Florida.

What time is the best time to see manatees in Crystal River? ›

About Crystal River

The Three Sisters Springs is a quieter viewing and swimming spot but wherever you are, the best time to be with the manatees is early morning 6 am to 8.30 am when they are most active. You can also experience the manatee swim by visiting with a tour group.

Do alligators eat manatees? ›

No, they don't. Actually, while alligators may bite the satellite tags attached to manatees and occasionally prey on manatee calves, they don't ordinarily bother manatees. Attacks by alligators are very rare, and boat strikes still remain the prime cause of death among adult manatees.

Do you have to pay to get into Three Sisters Springs? ›

All prices are subject to change.
...
General Admission.
AgeSummerWinter
Adult$12.50$20.00
Senior (55+)$12.50$17.50
Military$11.50$15.00
Child (6 - 15)$7.50$7.50
1 more row

Do you have to wear a wetsuit to swim with manatees? ›

We do require that you wear a wetsuit when you snorkel with the manatees as they help you stay warm, buoyant, and assist you in keeping your feet near the top of the water and not dangling, which often will stir up the bottom and scare the manatees.

Is Crystal River worth visiting? ›

Boasting of warm, spring-fed rivers, abundant natural beauty, a rich history, and a remarkable number of wildlife, Crystal River is a city worth visiting. You'll love exploring the lakes and rivers, diving in for delicious scallops, hiking through unspoiled forests, and swimming with the adorable manatees.

Is swimming with manatees safe? ›

Manatees are calm and peaceful marine mammals that pose no danger to swimmers. In fact, they are curious animals that enjoy human interaction and are quite happy to relate with and be around humans. That's why it's quite common for manatees to approach swimmers or divers for a belly rub or close contact.

Will a manatee hurt you? ›

No, manatees are not dangerous. Manatees are peaceful and calm marine animals that do not harm anyone. They are, in fact, curious animals who enjoy human interaction, and they enjoy interacting and staying around humans. As a result, manatees frequently approach swimmers or divers for a belly rub or close contact.

Has a manatee ever attacked a human? ›

Well, no. A manatee won't bite you! Manatees are naturally gentle and docile creatures, and they love human company, too. When you float in the water and encounter them, manatees will monitor your movements keenly and tolerate you.

Are manatees good to eat? ›

Manatee meat was a delicacy because it was the only source of meat on the island at a time when fish was eaten three times a day. So you can imagine what a treat manatee meat was. Also it is delicious because it is simply delicious, as good as beef and pork; some would say even better.

Are there sharks in Crystal River? ›

In Crystal River, you'll find some of the best shark fishing in the world. If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, full of plenty of catching and intense action, Crystal River is the right place for you to set out on your fishin' mission to catch Florida sharks.

Has anyone been attacked by an alligator in Crystal River? ›

The gator attacked the seventh-grader Wednesday evening in a spring-fed tributary of the Crystal River. State wildlife officers believe the gator was the 11-foot-3 1/2 -inch reptile they shot and killed Thursday.

Are there snakes in Crystal River? ›

The timber rattlesnake and the southern copperhead are rare in Crystal River and are typically found in northern Florida, but if you've spent time outdoors in the Crystal River area, you've probably seen at least one of the four other venomous snakes.

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