Estuary of Crystal River

Image of a stand of palm trees by the still and calm water of the salt marsh.

The salt marsh and estuarine environment at Crystal River Preserve State Park occurs because of a perfect combination of tides, temperature and terrain.

Each day in Crystal River fresh water from an abundance of area springs mixes with the salty seawater from the Gulf of Mexico. Nature's magic happens in an estuary, where the fresh water and salt water meet.

Do you remember visiting the ocean and smelling that refreshing scent of the salt and sea breeze? The fragrances in a salt marsh are even more intense, and sometimes even pungent, as the smell of salt mixes with the decomposing organic matter from the rich diversity of life that is sheltered here.

Living in the salt marsh, in the mangrove or cedar hammock islands that make up a significant portion of the preserve, may not initially sound ideal. Your feet get wet twice daily at high tide, it smells a bit funny at low tide and the ground alternates between rocky and squishy, sometimes making it tough to walk. But for the plants and animals of the estuary, this critically important ecosystem provides food, water and, most importantly, a shelter.  

A total of 75% of Florida’s commercial and recreational fisheries have refuge here, and we continue to protect it for the future.

The shores of the saltmarsh also protect people and the places that are important to us, like our homes and schools. The shores of the saltmarsh act as a buffer, protecting the shoreline from erosion during severe storms (like hurricanes) and reducing flooding to low lying areas by slowing and absorbing rainwater. Truly, we have a lot to thank the marshes for.

So the next time you visit Crystal River Preserve State Park, take time to stop and appreciate the estuary and all that it represents. It will be here.