Print

E-Mail Story

Comment

News Letter Sign up


Sunshine and clear water


April 03, 2018

1 Image

By the time this article reaches you, spring will have arrived in full force here in the South. Honestly it feels like it’s here already. Birds are singing at the crack of dawn, all varieties of plant are blooming, and pollen is caked an inch thick on your windshield. What with all of this activity and the recent time change bringing longer days, it’s time to get outside and treat our vitamin D deficiency with a little sunshine. And what better place to do that than the Sunshine State itself?

The Gulf of Mexico boasts some of the clearest and bluest water in the world, but we can’t all just jet off to the Caribbean whenever we feel like it. Luckily, our neighbor to the south has the next best thing: natural warm springs with water so clear that they named the town after it. Crystal River, Florida is the self-proclaimed “Home of the Manatee,” hundreds of the animals flocking to the warmth and seclusion of the springs. The peak time of year to see manatees is mid-November through late March, however many of the areas where they congregate are protected and may be closed to visitors for part of the season. It is also the busiest time of year to visit, with more than three dozen snorkel and kayaking companies running tours daily and competing for views of these gentle giants.

Though the peak time of year is past, some of the animals enjoy the area so much that they have become permanent residents. Homosassa State Park, 10 miles south of Crystal River, has an underwater viewing area where the park’s small pod of manatees can be seen year round. The park is also a wildlife conservation area so myriads of local wildlife can be seen on its boardwalks and trails including alligators, herons, osprey, deer and bobcats. Rarer species like black bear and the near-extinct red wolf can be seen at the park’s rehabilitation center.

The Crystal River Preserve and Archaeological State Park boasts more than 27,000 acres of salt marsh, tidal creeks, mangrove forests, and old growth forest with 61 acres of the park devoted to one of the largest pre-Columbian Native American complexes in the south. The site includes burial and temple mounds and was a major center of activity and trade for early Americans. The nearby museum is open 9-5 Thursday through Monday. The park also offers eco boat tours which explain to visitors the ecological history of the area and its importance to the people who lived there. The 1.5 hour tour runs at 10:30 and 1:30 Monday, Wednesday and Friday with tickets offered on a first-come, first-serve basis so get there early to secure your spot, especially in the busy spring months. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children aged 7 to 12. Hiking and biking trails are open 8 a.m. to sundown daily and there is no entrance fee for the park so there is no reason not to take advantage of the opportunity to see one of the most pristine natural environments in western Florida.

Kayaking is one of the best ways to explore this area. Three Sisters Springs, a favorite with the manatees, is often the busiest but the large swaths of protected wildlife areas make almost anywhere an ideal place to spot other types of wildlife. Hunter Springs Park is a good place to begin your paddling adventure, offering an ideal place to put in kayaks whether you brought your own or want to rent one on the spot. Maps are available at the nearby visitors center.


Print

E-Mail Story

News Letter Sign up

Bookmark and Share
« Previous Story | Next Story »
 

COMMENTS

http://www.connectstatesboro.com/ encourages readers to interact with one another. We will not edit your comments, but we reserve the right to delete any inappropriate responses. To report offensive or inappropriate comments, contact our editor. The comments below are from readers of http://www.connectstatesboro.com/ and do not necessarily represent the views of Publication or Morris Multimedia.

You must be logged in to post comments.  [LOGIN]



You must be logged in to post comments.  [LOGIN]