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Reported: June 2021

Crystal River Archaeological State Park

A Significant Historical Site in West Florida... Short Bike or Hike

The 61 acre Crystal River Archaeological State Park is located along the Crystal River, between the City of Crystal River and the Gulf of Mexico. It is adjacent to the 27,000 acre Crystal River Preserve State Park. This is a Pre-Columbian Native American ceremonial and burial site, with a paved, 3/4 mile multi-use path winding past temple mounds, burial mounds, a plaza and a shell midden, to the river. Hike or slow-cruise from spot to spot on a bike, this report is included due to the Park's historical and cultural significance. This six-mound complex is one of the longest continuously occupied sites in Florida. A National Historic Landmark, it's a unique and worthwhile stop. State Park fee applies (less for bikers and hikers). (Map link and photos below.)

Crystal River Archaeological State Park, eco-biking

Map link...
Crystal River Archaeological State Park


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Location: Citrus County (go west on W. State Park St. from US 19/98 in Crystal River)
Mileage: 3/4 mile
Surface: Paved
Trailheads: Parking lot at the visitor center/museum (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Kings Bay, Crystal River, Crystal River Preserve State Park, Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park

Bike Shops/Rentals:
N/A

Support and Advocacy:
Friends of the Crystal River State Parks

Crystal River Archaeological State Park... Comments and Photos

The Park includes parking, restrooms, picnicking, museum and visitor center, and interpretative exhibits. Starting from the parking area near the museum, we biked along the paved path through the mound area (6 mounds) and along the riverfront. It's an easy ride with mixed sun and shade, we only saw a few walkers on our visit. With many mounds and interpretative markers, we stopped often - given the short distance, hiking is an equally good option. Part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, many species of birds and other wildlife including turtles, snakes and otter may be seen. Heritage Eco-Boat Tours are offered seasonally. The Park lays along coastal marshlands, and fishing is another popular activity.


Around the Park

The paved path weaves past all the park features. The mound complexes have interpretative markers describing their purpose and use. Two stela or petroglyphs (carved stone slabs) are unique in that they are usually only found at sites in the Caribbean, Central and South America. Although eroded, the larger Stela 1 has what appears to be a carved human face. The Crystal River Archaeological Museum presents artifacts, a diorama depicting how the complex may have looked when inhabited, and a video.


Main Mound

Temple Mound (Mound A) is the main mound and main attraction. The highest geographical point in Crystal River, climb 51 steps to the observation deck at the top and take in the panoramic views of the Crystal River and the park. The original mound was much larger, but owners before the State acquired the site removed 2/3 of it to fill in the marshlands for future development (more below).


Riverside and Picnic

A path leads down to the river, and a picnic area. A historic marker talks of this area once being a lagoon, filled in by previous owners for development.

More Information and Resources

More About Crystal River Archaeological State Park:

The park is one of the longest continuously occupied sites in Florida, more than 1600 years in Pre-Columbian times (200 BC to 1400 AD). It was abandoned for unknown reasons before the arrival of Europeans. The first excavations were in 1903, with other extensive investigation in the 1950's. A landowner in modern times built a trailer park here and used materials from the mounds to fill in the land for development. Fortunately, the site was acquired by the State in 1962 and it became a State Park in 1965. The park serves dual purposes: (1) preserving its natural and cultural aspects, and (2) providing recreational opportunities.

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