Crystal River Preserve State Park is a 27,000 acre preserve of scrub hardwood and pine forests bordered by salt marsh and mangrove islands. Due to its perfect orientation between temperate climate zones and sub-tropical, it’s the amount of plant and animal life nearly doubles compared with other areas of the state.
It has been home to Pre-Columbians for 12,000 years that took advantage of bountiful resources that Mother Nature had provided. Their many shell mounds pay tribute to the long life they enjoyed long before Europeans arrived.
By the late 1800’s the turpentine industry owned the land and used the many pine islands to construct an empire providing turpentine, boat resin and other products across the Gulf of Mexico to the Mississippi River.
In 2004, the area was purchased by the state and operations were in full swing. Nature trails were mapped out, trailheads and parking areas were set up and a small office building was in place. Over the years, several parcels were added to Crystal River Preserve State Park, encompassing a vast protected boundary between Florida’s developed coastline and undeveloped coasts.
Today, biking trails, boat tours and boardwalk nature trails create the perfect place for a picnic lunch, day on the water or off-road bicycle through the forests. The bike trail is an eight mile trip through mostly flat terrain, on jeep trails that riders can travel side by side on with no obstructions. The loop trail has two entrances. Click here to access information about directions to the trailhead entrances. Both trailheads are free of charge and provide restrooms and potable water.
The Heritage-Eco Boat Tour takes 26 passengers along on a river adventure on the vessel “Monroe” along the scenic Crystal River. Their tour “The Ancient River Dwellers” provides visitors with history about these Native Americans that built giant mounds to their gods. It explores the areas estuarine (fresh and salt water) ecosystem and how it provided for early man.
For hikers and outdoor nature lovers who like a short but fun hike, the Eco-walk Trail offers visitors 11 discovery zones that give you tips to get better acquainted with the sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors. But if you’re into shorter hikes, a series of alternate trails throughout the parks many acres can provide you with the adventure you crave. The ¾ mile Churchhouse Hammock Boardwalk is an easy hike with beautiful rock formations and Karst limestone outcroppings.
For more information on directions and other park questions, visit the website here.