Crystal River, FL

Crystal River, FL

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A curious manatee initiates contact with a swimmer. Photo: C Grant / Visit Citrus

Mermaid Fable in Crystal River

Swim with the gentle giants once mistaken for fishtailed maidens, and discover the Florida spot they call home.

If your cruising itinerary includes Florida’s Big Bend coast, there’s a marvelous experience 70 miles north of Tampa and 6 miles up the Crystal River. The area is a first-magnitude spring system comprising more than 40 bubbling springs that stay a constant 72 degrees all year long and where the largest population of manatees in the U.S. calls home. Can you blame them? Their numbers climb during the winter months when they find shelter from the cold, but a few linger throughout the year. Manatees can be seen in many other places, of course, but this is the only place in North America where swimmers can legally interact with them. That in itself is a compelling reason for a visit, but when you add a stay at Plantation Resort on Crystal River, it propels to the top of the list.

From the Gulf of Mexico, pass through King’s Bay and ease between Parker Island to port and Banana Island to starboard. Just past the gazebo, you’ll find Plantation on Crystal River, which offers visiting mariners resort amenities, a boat ramp, boat rentals, charter options, trailer storage, and a 1,600-foot sea wall for tie-ups outside of guest rooms.
It is advisable to get local information on current depths in the Crystal River area as shoaling is common in the projected six-foot depth of the Salt River that connects with Crystal River. At this juncture is the full-service Twin Rivers Marina. Overhead power lines have a 47-foot vertical clearance here. Shallows are commonplace so depth sounders should be minded especially for boats with more than five-foot drafts. Waiting for half-tide or higher might be recommended in waters before the Crystal River channel. Once within the channel, simply follow the markers—red to starboard, green to port.