Established as an aquatic preserve to protect the sensitive estuaries between Crystal River, a spring-fed major river frequented by manatees, and the Gulf of Mexico, Crystal River Preserve State Park spans 20 miles of the Gulf Coast between Yankeetown and Homosassa.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Crystal River
Visitor Center: 28.908915,-82.636997
Address: 3266 N. Sailboat Ave, Crystal River
Restroom: At the visitor center
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM until sunset daily. Leashed pets welcome.
Visitor center closed on weekends.
Entrances to the park are along US 19 both south and north of downtown Crystal River. The Dixie Shores and Redfish Hole trails are along Fort Island Trail, while the park’s visitor center is at the end of Crystal Cove Rd. Churchhouse Hammock and the EcoWalk are just north.
About the Park
There are many access points to the preserve. Some are very obvious, like Churchhouse Hammock, a quarter mile accessible boardwalk leading to a 3/4-mile hiking trail through palm hammocks. It’s right across from the Crystal River Mall.
There are also “blink and miss it” parking pulloffs for hikes like Dixie Shores and Redfish Hole along the Fort Island Trail. Together, these tally nearly 6 miles, depending on water levels.
Children will love the visitor center with its touch table and tanks of turtles and fishes, as well as the interpretive 2.3-mile Ecowalk.
Along the road to the Visitor Center are two trailheads. One is for Mullet Hole, where an out-and-back on the Crystal Cove Trail rambles at least 2 miles.
The Eagle Trail, where off-road cyclists have a wild and sometimes wet 7-mile loop through the coastal hammock to explore, has an interconnection to the Ecowalk.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
At Crystal River Archaeological State Park, a paved interpretive trail winds through a ceremonial mound complex built more than 2,500 years ago. The park is the home of Florida’s only petroglyph.
The sweep of salt marshes and the salt breeze surround you on a walk through the trail system at Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve, a 413-acre preserve in Yankeetown
Looking for manatees? You’ll see them up close at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, where families can get up close to Florida wildlife in a natural setting.