Citrus County, Florida: Kayak Tours and Scalloping Adventure
Even late in the evening, it‘s still comfortably warm here in Citrus County as we arrive at our beautiful hotel, the Plantation on Crystal River. Directly behind the ample building there´s the Crystal River, and after we‘ve put our suitcases in our rooms, we sit down on a bench at the river and enjoy the natural stillness of this region in Florida. There‘s even a few dolphins out, hunting for fish late in the evening in these more remote areas of the river.
A Kayak Tour on Crystal River to the Three Sisters Spring
Early the next morning, we´re off on a kayak tour in Crystal River with the boats of the Crystal River Kayak Company, which is not far from the hotel. The paddle is very relaxed. On the one side of the river there´s beautiful homes, on the other side a rather wild-looking marshland with dense mangroves. After about 20 minutes, we take a turn into a creek of the river and approach a fascinating natural spectacle: the source of Three Sisters Spring.
All of a sudden, the water becomes crystal clear and you can see to the ground! Equipped with mask and snorkel, we dive down to the bottom and explore the depth of the spring. Besides a variety of fish and crabs, the spring is repeatedly visited by manatees, especially when the waters off shore get colder during the winter months. This area is truly the only place in the U.S. where you can swim next to these gentle and nosy sea giants.
Scalloping in the Gulf of Mexico
The following morning, we´re off early on the Crystal River, passing marshland and small islands until our boat stops after an hour on the open ocean and drops its anchor. Even though it looks like we´re on the open and deep ocean, the water is only about six-feet-deep here and the ground is covered with wide areas of sea grass. All around Homosassa and Kings Bay, you´ll find some of the richest scalloping grounds in the U.S.
Equipped with snorkel, mask and a small bag, we dive down and hover across the sea grass. And every now and then there´s an open scallop hiding in between the sea grass – recognizable because of its many blue “eyes” – which I then scoop up into my bag. Scalloping is a little like an underwater Easter egg hunt. After an hour, our bags are full and we return to the mainland in good spirits. Between July and September, the only season where you can hunt for these delicious scallops, some local restaurants will even prepare the fresh catch for you.
Paddling Through Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge
After a quick lunch in the hotel, we drive to the nearby Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge where we rent a kayak next to the nice camping area. Here as well, paddling peacefully on the Chassahowitzka river gives me a sense of unity with the surrounding beautiful nature that seems so wonderfully wild and untouched here in Citrus County. There are wading and migrant birds everywhere, and we paddle beside turtles and alligators that bask in the sun. Before we return the kayaks, there´s a refreshing treat waiting for us: I climb up a rope that´s hanging from a giant live oak tree and jump into the nice, warm waters of the river.
During the evening we sit together for a long time in a little fish restaurant with a view of the ocean and enjoy the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Citrus County is a true paradise for nature lovers who seek stillness and beautiful, untouched nature.