About Crystal River
Crystal River, FL is a small town located in Citrus County. The most notable part about the town is the river that goes by the same name, Crystal River.
Here is where you will find kayak adventures, hiking trails, and above all, the manatees!
The river is spring fed – like most in Florida – so the water stays near 72 degrees year round, making it the perfect winter getaway for the manatees.
Crystal River is protected from the currents and waves of the Gulf and has very calm waters which makes it perfect for kayaking and paddle boarding.
How to Access Crystal River
Crystal river has multiple access points and boat launches, many from parks and kayak rental businesses.
The most accessible and and common launches are from Hunter Springs Park and Kings Bay Park.
The parks are close to each other, and located only a short distance from the main part of the river and a short paddle to Three Sisters Springs.
Where to Rent a Kayak or Paddle Board
If you don’t have your own device to launch, you can rent a kayak or paddle board from one of the many rental companies with their own launches.
Tours on Crystal River
If you’re weary of navigating the river yourself or just enjoy tours, there are plenty of tour companies on the river that either paddle with you around the river or boat you to the best manatee viewing areas.
Where to Explore on Crystal River
There are a few different paths one can take while exploring the river.
First, you can wander about the largest part of the river, near Kings Bay. The Bay is filled with moored sailboats, islands – only available during the summer, and places to dive. Here, you can start picking out places along the river and bay you’ll want to grab some grub from on your way out.
Second, you can take about a five mile paddle up the river to the Gulf of Mexico. This is a long day paddle and is definitely off the beaten path – or river – but this will ensure a day filled of exploration and solitude.
Third, which is the most common, travel through the estuaries to the different springs. In the summer, the springs are a nice cool off point and place to swim. In the winter, the springs are mainly closed to visitors but offer sanctuary to the manatees sleeping in their warm waters.
If you go to view the manatees, be sure to never approach them, give them space, never touch a manatee, and leave all resting manatees be. While near the manatee sites, you will see people wearing orange vests indicating they are the manatee watchers. If you have any questions about the manatee rules and laws, ask them, if you break any, they will know.
Crystal River is a major paddle site in west-central Florida, if you want to avoid boaters, tours, and other paddlers, be sure to get out there early!
Where to Explore on Foot
While the river is the towns namesake, there are parks and preserves to explore in the town.
Crystal River Preserve State Park is located along the river, between town and the Gulf.
This park offers a variety of activities including paddling, fishing, hiking, biking, and wildlife viewing. There are various trails to try, even trails along the Great Florida Birding Trail.
Be sure to check out the eco-walk trail for a great workout and improving your outdoor skills.
Where to Go After Your Adventure
Crystal River is home to so many great restaurants to try on the river and in town. Be sure to check out some local spots to fill up before heading home.
About the Manatees
While visiting any place with wild and marine life, it is always important to respect those animals and nature.
Crystal River is a safe haven for manatees year round and especially in the winter months when the Gulf of Mexico becomes too cold. The manatees love the warm waters of the Florida spring-fed rivers and have come to call them their winter home.
It may be tempting to approach and pet these gentle giants but it is against the law and detrimental to their habitat and ecosystem. Florida hit record numbers of manatee killings in recent years, many were involuntary but largely in part to reckless boating. Unfortunately, manatees – and other marine and wild life – have become extremely used to and comfortable with humans that they have been venturing closer and closer to people in the wild.
Please give all manatees their space, never approach them, and keep their areas clean and untouched.
More rivers and islands to explore in west-central Florida.
- Tampa Bay rivers
- Weeki Wachee River
- The Chassahowitzka River
- Islands, Keys, and Sand Bars Around the Tampa Bay
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