Heritage - Eco River Tour

Florida Guide > Other Activities

When visiting Crystal River many people take commercial boat trips to swim with the manatees, but if you are looking for something a little different, why not try a Heritage -Eco River tour?

These tours leave The Crystal River Preserve State Park Visitor Centre at 10. 30 and 1. 30 on Mondays, Wednesday' s and Friday' s and cost $15 for adults, $10 for under 12' s whilst children under 6 ride free. Tickets can be purchased, cash only, from the Visitor Centre one hour before departure and are available on a ' first come first served' basis. (Information correct as of Nov 2015. Call 352-536-0450 for up to date information and sailing schedules).

You can find the Visitor Centre just North of Crystal River centre by taking North Sailboat Ave off route 19- the main route through town.

The tour embarks from the dock just outside the visitor centre, it is a pontoon style boat with bench seats accommodating rows of four people and their are binoculars on each row to view birds and wild life at close quarters. Our boat tour had a crew of two who were both park volunteers, Nancy was our guide and Jim was our captain.

Nancy began the tour by showing us a map of the Crystal River area which is made up of hundreds of tiny islands, mainly uninhabited and some only large enough for a single person to stand on. These form numerous channels and inlets along which the earliest river users travelled up to 10, 000 years ago and around which the ancient river
dwellers settled 2, 500 years ago.

Initially we travelled inland to view the Crystal River Archaeological State Park from the water, Nancy pointed out the high temple mound and told us something of the customs and rituals of the ancient river dwellers. The boat then turned and headed for the mouth of the river and the Gulf of Mexico.

Nancy went on to explain how the warm freshwater springs of the Crystal river attracted all manner of birds and wildlife, especially in the winter months when dolphins and manatee travel from the cool waters of the gulf to the warmer springs and although the November daytime temps were still a little warm to attract many manatees we were lucky enough to see dolphins playing and feeding at the edge of the river mouth.

This tour was a real treat for any bird watchers and indeed one of the passengers was a birder and was pointing out different species even before Nancy or Jim had spotted them! We saw blue heron, osprey, immature bald eagles, cormorants, anghila and many, many, more. Nancy pointed out the massive nests of bald eagles which had been there for over 10 years and to which the birds return every year to raise their young.

As we reached the mouth of the river and passed the point where we were officially entering The Gulf of Mexico the Crystal River Power Plant came in to view and although this somewhat spoils the beautiful landscape Nancy went on to explain how they are the major employer in the area and how without the plant the economy of Crystal River may well be none sustainable.

The tour lasted approximately one and a half hours before we returned to the visitor centre. If you are interested in ancient, civilisations, geology, or birdwatching it is a fascinating tour, if none of these interest you it is a pleasant, informative boat trip in beautiful surroundings.

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