Crystal River is a city in Central Florida.
Crystal River is located in Citrus County, approximately 90 miles northwest of Tampa near the Gulf of Mexico. This tranquil community is known as the place “Where Man and Manatee Play.” Manatees abound in the year round 72-degree spring fed waters in Crystal River from the months of November through March. You can go swimming with these gentle creatures that sometimes let you get close enough to scratch their bellies! Crystal River offers manatee safaris, manatee snorkeling tours and dive tours. Built around Kings Bay, near the Homosassa River, Crystal River also offers fishing, boating, camping, nature trails for hiking, canoeing and kayaking. There are nine area golf courses near Crystal River. Some of the other interesting places to visit near Crystal River includes the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, the Naber Kids Doll Factory and the Crystal River State Archeological Site. This area boasts a wide variety of restaurants, hotels, motels and other vacation rentals. Crystal River, located on Florida’s “Nature Coast,” is an eco-tourism paradise that visitors of all ages are sure to enjoy.
The so-called Nature Coast keeps its secret: the river-riddled, marshy coastline of Citrus, Hernando and Pasco Counties is tailor-made for fishing, boating and kayaking among manatees, otters, bald eagles, swallowtail kites and more than 200 other species of birds that have been spotted there. Northernmost Citrus County alone holds four of Florida’s designated Outstanding Waters – rivers Withlacoochee, Homosassa, Crystal and Chassahowitzka. All empty into Gulf of Mexico bay waters mottled with verdant, gnarly mangrove islands. Each year, October through March, the warm waters of spring-fed Crystal and Homosassa river hosts the largest herd of manatees in the U.S.
The homey town of Crystal River has become synonymous with the gentle sea giants, in fact. Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge was created specifically to protect the endangered species and can arrange boat and kayak tours designed for spotting them in their habitat. Those who want to get closer take to the waters with snorkels or scuba gear to swim among them, but no touching allowed!
There really is a Crystal River in Crystal River, Florida. It is a six mile long winding waterway fed by some 30 springs, connecting Kings Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. The bay and the river combine to provide virtually every aquatic activity conceivable—from swimming and diving, to boating, water skiing, fishing and just drifting along admiring the views that make this city “The Gem of the Nature Coast.”
Long before Europeans came to the New World, native civilizations recognized the resources of the Crystal River area and left signs of their presence, some of which have been excavated and made accessible to visitors at the Crystal River State Archaeological Site. Boaters can see many other mounds as they cruise down the river.
There is solid evidence of the Deptford culture here from 500 BC to 300 A.D, then the Weedon Island culture from 300 to 900 AD, and finally, the Safety Harbor culture from about 900 A.D. until historic times, perhaps 1400 A.D.
Crystal River was once a center of cedar timber logging, and back about 100 years ago a local mill produced cedar slats that were sent to the Dixon Pencil Co. Countless users who chewed on Dixon pencils and released that characteristic aroma of cedar wood were getting a small taste of this beautiful community.
West Indian Manatees—those large, beloved marine mammals that graze underwater vegetation—are frequent visitors to the Crystal River area, because they cannot tolerate the wintertime chilly water of the Gulf of Mexico. Rather, they much prefer the steady 72-degrees of the spring-fed river. Together with neighboring Homosassa, Crystal River is the site of the largest gathering of manatees in North America and the only place in the nation where people can legally swim and snorkel with them.
Fishing was, and continues to be, a major attraction for Crystal River visitors. Many professional athletes have come here to enjoy some of the best saltwater fishing available anywhere. The short run to the Gulf and then the abundance of fish relatively near the shore make for memorable days.
The proximity of the Withlacoochee River provides a freshwater alternate to the saltwater delights of Crystal River. There is a very long canoe trail that can provide a week or more of lazy drifting and exploration, plus equally scenic equestrian trails.
The City of Crystal River has all the resources of any town in America, including excellent schools, convenient shopping, acclaimed antiquing, good restaurants featuring local seafood and produce, a Heritage Village with interesting shops and more. Crystal River also has an excellent airport, suitable for private aircraft and located just outside of the main business area.
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Other nearby attractions include the pre-Columbian shell mounds of the Crystal River Archaeological State Park, the 1852 Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park, and the top-rated World Woods Golf Club.
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There are fast food restaurants in town as well.
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