Crystal River/Ten Thousand Islands FL

From 2/12 through 2/21 some members of my local VA paddle group are doing their annual “Winter Blues” trip to Florida. Last year they did the FL Keys.

This year they’ll be stopping in Crystal River for one day to kayak with the manatees, and then continuing on to the Ten Thousand Islands for the remainder of the trip.

I’m just looking for any, and all, useful info that anybody out there may have on these areas/paddle trails. Trip reports, good put-ins, must-sees, good local outfitters, etc.

Thanks in Advance!!

After Crystal River
do the Chasahowitzka river, and then as you work your way down toward the 10,000 Islands, do the Wichiwachee river, and then the Hillsboro river, and then the Myakka River.

what is your time frame?

I can give you a bunch of trips



Paddle the Crystal River Area
I be glad to so your group around! Paddle the area all the time. I will email with contact info.

10,000 Islands
Local Outfitter- Saltwater Sports in Naples.

Secure parking and canoe ramp and water in Everglades City at the Park entrance. From that point you can paddle north or south on the outside in the Gulf or inside along the wilderness waterway. Also contact Russell at Sweetwater Kayaks in Clearwater for local info- he’s paddled and led trips throughout the area.

Paddling Crystal River . . .
Talk to the park ranger or get a paddling tour, if it’s your first time. Try not to miss anything - there are nice springs hidden back around the corner by those canal-subdivisions where the manatees hang out.

Also, avoid the pontoon boats, although they may try to follow you around. The last time I went, our paddling group got some distance from the noisy tour boats and just sat quietly in the water. At that point, the manatees came up all around us, playing, occasionally bumping the bottom of our boats. They seemed to be curious about us.

I’ve found Aardvarks very knowledgable.

Try this

– Last Updated: Feb-04-10 5:59 AM EST –

(Florida, West coast -Half way down)

Trip Length - 5 TO 10 miles

Short Description: Leave from a public park, explore. A few springs. Look for Manatee as you make a circle around Kings Bay and return

Best weather conditions: Wind less than 15 MPH

Comments: - Recommended for all level paddlers
-Watch for manatees during the winter
- Water clarity is poor except at the
launch area where it is fair, and at the
springs area where it is excellent
- the water is salt except where it comes
out of the springs

Directions: - Heading north on US 19, from Homosassa
Springs at Crystal River turn
left at a set of lights just after the
junction of route 44. The road will be
N.E.Third Ave. It is across from "Fancy
Pet" store
- Follow the signs that say "Beach
Access" to the park
- there is ample parking, rest rooms and
a little sandy beach to launch from.

The trip: after launching turn left and paddle a few
hundred yards straight across to the
-first springhead.
- Then return and exit the little bay past
where you launched bearing around to
the left as you go.(make notes of some
landmarks so you can find your way
back at the end of your paddle)
- follow the tour/dive boats and
continuing bearing left under a bridge.
-In a short distance you will come to
where some empty tour/dive boats will be
anchored waiting for their passengers who
are at the "Three Sisters Springs"
- As you approach these tour/dive boats
keep looking in the woods on the left
hand side and you will see a narrow
opening with white posts that prevent
the larger boats from entering, but
allow the canoes, kayaks and swimmers to
pass through.
- Paddle on though to the three springs.
- As you enter one will be to your left,
and the other two will be up at the far
right end.
- After you play around there for a while
you can take the second exit, which is
similar to the one you came in through,
but up farther on the right.
- After exiting, turn right and go back out
into Kings Bay the way you came in,
and then head slightly left and cross to
Buzzards Island, which you can circle
counter clockwise
- when you get about three quarters of the
way around once again watch for the
tour/dive boats, which will be off to the
- Head in their direction and to the left of
where they are all anchored and in
between the area marked off with the white
buoys will be under water caves with
springs. The island to the left will be
Banana Island.
- continue bearing to the left and you will
come back out into Kings Bay again
where you can either head for home, or go a
little way down the Crystal River
and then return back

I hope this helps.
If yes, and you want more including ones for the 10,000 Islands, just let me know.
I should have written a paddling guide ten years ago!

It was a pain in the butt, reformating it from the way I have it in a word document, and it still didn't print out the way I wanted it to when I posted it.


Visiting Crystal River WFR
A good place to start is with the Crystal River Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. There are brown signs along Rt 19 to help you find it. You will actually be paddling in a wildlife refuge. They can provide maps and information. They will also talk to you about where you may and may not paddle and what you may and may not do around manatees. Listen carefully to them. Fines for being in the wrong place or doing the wrong thing start at $150. They usually let people off with a warning, but if you decide to get smart/mouthy, you will probably get a ticket. Word to the wise.

When in the visitor center make sure you look up and see the skeleton of a manatee which I find interesting. Among other things note that a manatee actually has fingers inside the front flipper and can develope finger nails. They will also probably talk about whooping cranes while you are there. There are frequently nesting wood storks to be seen in the trees across the cove in front of the visitor center if you are lucky.

If you get bored with the manatees and paddling around the bay and still have time left there is the Nature Coast Canoe Trail (also called the Nature Coast Birding Trail) that starts in the Salt River which connects to the Crystal River. It runs 20 miles basically south and ends in the Chassahowitzka River/ Wildlife Refuge. There are several place to launch along the way. Good Maps and a GPS or a guide are a good idea if you want to go very far and not get lost. Another place to get information about the trail is Advarks in Crystal River.

When you get all done, if you are looking for fried basket food, go east on Rt 44 a mile or two and find Dan’s Clam Stand on the north side of the road. Good eating!

A nice base to use in 10,000 islands is Ivey House.

Check The Temp
Word of warning: Crystal River can be very cold that time of the year. It may even freeze overnight while you are there. Bring your warm paddling clothes. The manatees are there for the warm water in the springs. If it is very warm, the manatees will leave and go back to the gulf.

These are wonderful places to paddle, starting around Macro Island on the lower SW Coast and continuing on into the northwestern reaches of Everglades National Park. There are mangrove islands, saltwater creeks, estuaries, miles upon miles of twisting coastlines, and every once in a while, a rare sand beach. All are suffused in glorious Gulf sunsets, and if you can find one of those beaches, it’s a great clsoing act to a great day of paddling.

But beware: it’s a generally trackless wilderness, the passes can be tricky when the tide is running, the area is fantastic for fishing -so bring/buy licenses and your gear -and beware of flats boaters in the well-known channels! ENP has a station in Everglades City, and Chokoloskee Causeway and Chokoloskee Island can be used as launch points, and there are others up and down the coast, but most of the area is wonderfully remote. You will need good marine charts, and a GPS is REALLY handy, and if you’re contemplating camping, it’s primitive, and you’ll need to bring all food and water with you, there are no convenience stores out there…

Do a little internet research and I’m sure you’ll get more information that I’ve given, and you’ll find the names and locations of various kayak shops and of guiding/outfitting services that run trips in the area.

If you want to get away from it all -or most of it, anyway, it can be a truly fantastic place to


-Frank in Miami

Instead of paddling a crowded…
…“boat bowl” Crystal River, try paddling the Waccassa River (Cedar Key area), Ozello (between the Homosassa & Crystal River) aka the ‘Oz’, or the Chassahowitzka, aka the ‘Chaz’. You’ll see far more wildlife, a lot less developement & boat traffic, lots more springs to visit with plenty of isolated ones to swim in without the crowds.

Weeki-Wachee’s pretty but with a lot of development w/ canals along it’s NW ‘banks’.

The Hillsborough has a lot of wilderness paddling sections from Trout Creek County Park upstream to the Hillsborough State Park with several entry/exit points along the way. WARNING: DO NOT paddle the Seventeen Runs without a guide.