Crystal River, a designated Outstanding Florida Waterway, is located in Citrus County, Florida, flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. It is seven miles long, and has a drainage basin of five square miles, joining Kings Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. The river’s significance is in the thirty natural springs that add an average of 300 million gallons of warm water to the river every day. These springs include Three Sisters Springs.
The warm water in the river attracts large numbers of manatees, and Kings Bay, at the head of the river, and the location of 28 springs harbors approximately 350 manatees during the winter. Some biologists consider the Crystal River to be the most important refuge for manatees in the United States.
Crystal River is also the home of Crystal River Archaeological State Park, an early Native American settlement. In the first half of the 19th century Crystal River was known as Weewahiiaca (wee-wah-heye-ih-YAH-kah), believed to be from the Creek language words wewa, meaning “water”, and haiyayaka, meaning “clear”. ( Wikipedia )
Crystal River Notes
This was our first trip on the river with Pon Tiki. We have enjoyed many years and visits to Crystal River to kayak and observe the springs and manatees. Our goal with Pon Tiki is to follow the seven-mile river out to Shell Island and the Gulf of Mexico
Kings Bay, Crystal River, and Three Sisters Springs are famous for being one of the largest sanctuaries for manatees in the United States. Manatee season at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge begins in mid-November and continues to late March. During this time the waterways and springs are very crowded with paddlers, scuba divers, snorkelers, and boaters. It is often hard to observe these gentle creatures due to the crowds, and we wouldn’t even attempt it on Pon Tiki…James
- Single, two-lane, concrete ramp with dock
- $15.00 for parking (ramp is free) 45 parking spaces
- Small-item store with boat rentals
Distances: From the launch to the river, it is 1/2 mile. One way to Shell Island is just under 7 miles.
Width and Depth:
The river varies in width as well as depth. At the mouth of the river, on west Kings Bay, the width is roughly 1000′ feet wide. It thins to around 600′ wide for much of the trip and by the time you reach Shell Island it is opening up into the gulf. The depth fluctuates from an average of 5′ to 18′, depending on the tide. There are some deeper pockets in the channel, but these are averages.
Current – Tidal: Tides are important to note as they fluctuate a few feet! It is very important to remain in the channel at all times and watch your depth finder.
Average Boating Speed: There are several ‘No-Wake’ zones but also several sections that we took it up to 10 – 17 mph. Boat traffic can be heavy at times with a speed limit of 25 mph, which was 8 mph higher than Pon Tiki cruises.
Rest Areas: Not too many until you reach Shell Island. There are a couple of beaches on each side of the river. They are not sandy but made of oyster shells.
Shell Island is a small 45-acre island located at the mouth of Crystal River on the Gulf of Mexico. The island is a little over a half-mile long and an average of 500′-600′ wide, situated in a northeast/southwest bearing. The island is scattered with an assortment of Palms, Cedars, Mangroves, and marsh grasses.
On the northern portion of the island, an exposed oyster shell beach stretches for over a 1/4 mile from the east side around the northern tip and to the west side. These shells can be very sharp some type of foot protection is recommended!
Our afternoon on the northern tip was excellent and it was quite easy to guide Pon Tiki to shallow water, jump in and ease it close to the shell shore, and drop anchor. We set up our table and chairs and enjoyed our own version of a ‘Shore Lunch’, and eased into the cold water to cool off. Pay close attention to the tide as you may have your boat high and dry when the tides go out. A word of warning…be prepared for NUMEROUS sand fleas!
Crystal River Photo Gallery
Guides, Maps & Info…
Crystal River | Homosassa River | Intercoastal Waterway | Lake Kerr | Lake Lochloosa | Pellicer Creek | Salt Springs | Santa Fe Lake | Silver Glen Springs | The Cedar Keys | The Ocklawaha River | The St Johns River | The Santa Fe River | The Silver River | The Suwannee River | The Rainbow River | Withlacoochee River