Crystal River Preserve State Park
The Boardwalk Trail in Crystal River Preserve State Park
Crystal River Preserve State Park is a non-contiguous property that borders about 20 miles of the Gulf Coast between Homosassa and Yankeetown. One of the easiest ways to get around on this property is by canoe or kayak but the Preserve also offers a 9 mile of hiking and biking trail starting from a trailhead at the intersection of Curtis Tool Road and North Tallahassee Road (off US Highway 19 north of Crystal River) and ending at the end of State Park Drive. The trail passes through several different coastal habitats and is recommended for the experienced biker/hiker only.
The Eco-Walk Trail is a 2.5-mile loop, also starting from the trailhead at North Tallahassee Road and Curtis Tool Road. On this trail you'll traverse a wet prairie and edge along between a swamp and a hardwood hammock.
Off the Fort Island Trail (driving road) is the trailhead for the Dixie Shores Trails (hiking trails). Near the Dixie Shores Trails is the Lake Loop Trail: a 1-mile hike that loops around three man-made lakes. Also near Dixie Shores is the Hammock Island Trail: A 3/4-mile hike through salt scrub and a salt marsh onto a hammock island. The photos on this page are from the Boardwalk Trail, about 1/3 of a mile in length and universally accessible. It crosses through an old Pinewoods and leads out onto a sawgrass marsh. The parking area and trailhead for the Boardwalk Trail are across Highway 19 from the Crystal River Mall.
A large part of Crystal River Preserve State Park is comprised of grass flats that extend far out into the Gulf of Mexico. With seven rivers feeding freshwater into the estuarine system here, vertebrate and invertebrate life is abundant. One thing to look out for in certain areas is manatees: they like to come deep into the stream system to where the water is warmest in the winter.
The Friends of Crystal River State Parks, Inc. are now in control of the park's tour boats, and they offer a great sunset tour on the last Friday of every month. They also offer one trip a day (1.5 hours, $10 per head) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, weather permitting.
This area was well-populated by Native Americans, before the Spanish started to arrive almost 500 years ago. New pre-Columbian archaeological sites are still being discovered at Crystal River Preserve. There are so many cultural resources on this property that the Gulf Archaeology Research Institute and the Central Region Florida Public Archaeology Network have opened local offices.
A typical Florida State Park, the grounds and trail heads at Crystal River Preserve are open from 8 am to sunset, every day of the year. Not typical is there is no entrance fee. Crystal River Preserve is located on the west side of US Highway 19 and there are several entrance points along the road. The Park Visitor Center is closed on weekends.
Sometimes you'll find sitting benches along the Boardwalk Trail
Typical hardwood hammock vegetation at Crystal River Preserve State Park
Crystal River Preserve State Park is in green on the map above
Map courtesy of Florida State Parks