The Crystal River Nature Preserve is a jewel of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Spanning 20 miles along the Gulf of Mexico, the preserve encompasses barrier islands, bays, wetlands, inlets, backwaters and forests. It is a refuge for Florida’s indigenous flora and fauna and is situated at the broad mouth of the Crystal River near the town of Homosassa.
The preserve is a sanctuary for bikers and hikers who enjoy seven miles of paved trails through the various coastal ecosystems. Some of these include tidal marshes, pine flatwoods, basin marshes, and hardwood hummoks which comprise the estuary. It is also a hub for fishing and birding due to the many saltwater fish in the tidal waters and sea birds which inhabit the salt marshes. Trails in the preserve are part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. pet lovers enjoy the preserve also as dogs are allowed provided they are on leashes.
For those who prefer a more relaxed tour of the preserve, there are boat tours and cruises available on select days. The Heritage Eco-Boat Tour is a 1 and a half hour guided boat tour where you travel along the estuary and learn about the Pre-Columbian peoples who lived in the river’s estuary thousands of years ago. It runs Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:30am and 1:30pm. Tours are subject to cancellation due to weather so call the Visitor’s Center ahead of time to check availability (352.563.0450).
Another cruising tour, which is only available once a month is the Sunset Cruise. This boat tour takes you out onto the Gulf of Mexico at dusk so you can witness the beautiful ocean sunset. Refreshments are available for this spectacular cruise. Because this cruise is only offered once a month, it is important to schedule ahead by calling the Visitor’s Center (352.563.0450).
Photo courtesy of www.visitcitrus.com