We’ve left Rock Crusher RV Park in Crystal River, Florida and made the drive to Salt Springs Campground in Ocala National Forest.
No problem getting set up and we are looking forward to exploring the Salt Springs and many trails. We’ve been warned this is bear country and some people in the park have seen black bears. No coolers outside, empty or full, and no food or trash outside or in the vehicle. We understand wasp spray will work so a trip to Dollar General is a must.
The sites are spacious and paved and plenty of room for dogs to run or in our case the cats to explore. We’ll let you know more after we explore but right now we will enjoy this 69 degree afternoon and walk to the springs. Read more about the campground on the Salt Springs Campground page.
Today we decided to take a day trip to Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. It is not typical of most state parks but has a theme of being a wildlife refuge or animal assisted living. This is not a zoo. After crossing the visitor center we boarded a pontoon boat for a one mile ride to the refuge park and purchased tickets to enter.
All but one of the animals in the park are native to Florida. That one happens to be named Lu and he is a 3500 lb hippo rescued from TV land. He got too big and the shows went off the air. He was taken to the Homosassa Springs Park which at the time was private. When the state bought the park they only wanted animals native to Florida and said Lu couldn't stay. The people of Homosassa protested loudly and the state made Lu an honorary resident of Florida so he could stay. He celebrates his 55th birthday on Monday. The oldest hippo in captivity lived 61 years but in the wild they only live about 35 years. This hippo knows only the human imprint and could never be released.
The exhibits are very informative and presented by volunteers of the park. The bird exhibit was the most interesting. Some birds are injured residents and can't fly away but many come and go freely just for the free food. The park also contains an underwater observatory where we could view many fish species and sometimes the four resident manatees. The springs stay a constant 72 degrees and in the winter months the park opens the gates to allow the wild manatees to come in for warmth.
We spent about three hours observing the animals, stopping for an ice cream cone and listening to the educational programs. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.
Annually Crystal River Florida holds a Manatee Festival. The festival takes place in downtown Crystal River in Heritage Village and the water side area along Kings Bay. Boat tours are available and shuttles provide transport to Three Sister Springs for manatee viewing. This is the 28th annual festival.
We couldn't believe the number of visitors estimating to be 15,000. There were local and retail vendors with booths along the closed streets. There was artwork, photography, sculptures, crafts and jewelry on display plus a wide variety of wonderful food. Saturday was a Caribbean theme with Amazing Steel drums opening for The Caribbean Chillers.
The Three Sisters Springs manatee tour is a must. We thoroughly enjoyed viewing the manatees and the clear spring water. The manatees come in from the gulf when it's cold to enjoy the warmer water that stays at 72 degrees year round. From November to April the manatee population peaks and the kayakers and swimmers enjoy these great animals. There are special roped off areas for the manatee's to swim when they tire of being around people. In Three Sisters Springs, the manatees will rest during the colder days, and on the warmer days, they will venture in and out as they feed throughout Kings Bay on the grasses which make up their diet.
Whether or not you travel to this area for the Manatee Festival, Crystal River is a must stop for RVers. There are many hiking and biking trails and kayaking opportunities.
The Crystal River Preserve State Park is home to many activities including biking hiking and birding trails, boating, kayaking, fishing and park sponsored boating tours. On our first visit to the park we went to the visitor center and obtained brochures and information from the park ranger. We also hiked the short Crystal Cove Birding Trail. This trail takes you along marshes and canals. At the end there is a fantastic view of sawgrass marshes and the Crystal River.
We returned yesterday to bike the Seven Mile Loop. The bike ride takes you along marshes and vast fields of sawgrass. Since we went late in the day, we only spotted two hawks and one playful otter. If you take this trail in the early morning, you will see much more wildlife in these many habitats.
The bike trail is wide and clearly marked. During the rainy season we are told it often floods so be sure to check any alerts at the ranger station. This includes all the trails in the state park. It took us an hour and 45 minutes to bike the loop and we stopped often to take pictures. Visit our Hike and Bike Trails website for more info on the trails.
We have left Destin West RV Resort and are now at Rock Crusher Canyon RV Park. Rock Crusher is a private park in Crystal River, Florida that is heavily wooded and has plenty of planned activities. The park has quite a few permanent residents and has the feel of a residential neighborhood. The cats enjoy their walks because of the numerous streets, dogs and different things to observe. We have set up the screened canopy for them to run loose. They love it!
There is a nice screened pool and spa. The clubhouse is used for a variety of social events such as ice cream socials, games and an occasional breakfast gathering. There are horseshoe and shuffleboard areas and a children's playground.
We have enjoyed our stay and will be here for a whole month. The weather is warm and Crystal River is known for it's manatees and state parks.
We love to travel in our 2021 Coachmen Beyond van about half of the year. Join us, if you will, to see where our adventures take us.