The Crystal River Nature Preserve is a gem of Florida’s Gulf Coast, only a few minutes drive from our Inverness, Florida hotel. Spanning 20 miles along the Gulf of Mexico, the Crystal River preserve includes barrier islands, bays, wetlands, inlets, backwaters and lush forests. It is a refuge for many of Florida’s indigenous flora and fauna and is situated along the broad mouth of the Crystal River near the city of Homosassa.
The preserve is a sanctuary for cyclists and hikers because it provides seven miles of paved and maintained trails through the various coastal ecosystems. Some of these environments include tidal marshes, pine flatwoods, basin marshes, and hardwood hummocks which make up the estuary. The preserve is also a hub for fishing and birding due to the many saltwater fish species in the shallow tidal waters and the many sea birds which inhabit the low salt marshes. Many paths in the preserve are part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Pet lovers can enjoy the preserve also as dogs are allowed provided they are kept on leashes.
For those who prefer a less rigorous tour of the preserve, there are boat tours and river cruises available on select days. The Heritage Eco-Boat Tour is a 1.5 hour guided boat tour where you travel along the estuary and learn about the Pre-Columbian peoples who lived in the river’s estuary several thousand years ago. This boat tour runs Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:30am and 1:30pm. Tours are subject to cancellation due to weather so call the preserve’s Visitor’s Center ahead of time to check availability (352.563.0450).
Another cruising tour takes you into deeper waters. The Sunset Cruise tour is only available once a month. This boat tour takes you out onto the Gulf of Mexico at sunset so you can witness the beautiful colors as the sun slips below the horizon. Refreshments are available on this spectacular evening cruise. Because this cruise is only offered monthly, it’s important to schedule ahead by calling the Visitor’s Center (352.563.0450).
Photo courtesy of www.visitcitrus.com