The Beauty of Florida’s Nature Coast
By: Kyle Grammatica
Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park
Land for Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park was purchased on December 31, 1992. Since then, more land has been added to the park through a donation from Pasco County and acquisitions under Preservation 2000 Additions and the Florida Forever Additions and Inholdings programs. Today, Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park encompasses 3,999 acres. Fishing and paddling are popular activities at the park, and birders may spot bald eagles and roseate spoonbills during their visit. Gray foxes, gopher tortoises, and dolphins also call the park home.
Artifacts that show that the Tocobaga Tribe used the area as a quarry have been found within Werner-Boyce. The tribe used the limestone to create tools but did not seem to have any permanent settlements at the park. Cattle grazing and turpentining were common in the area throughout the early 1800s. In fact, cattle grazers were the first settlers to discover the salt springs since their cows preferred staying around them and would lick the salt off the surrounding rocks. During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers set up salt works on the land. These salt works were some of the only ones in Florida not demolished by Union soldiers given the area’s unique geography. During World War II, aircrafts would frequently test their weapons in the area before heading to Europe, leaving many bomb craters that became ponds over time.
Today, the park is undergoing restoration efforts and educational materials detailing the unique history of the park are being created.
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is a safe haven for Florida’s manatee population. The refuge was established in 1983 as a part of the United States National Wildlife Refuge System. It covers 80 acres in total and has 20 islands within the protected area. There are a variety of activities to do at the refuge. Fishing is allowed in most sections of the Kings Bay area, and boating and kayaking are popular ways to explore the waters.
Swimming with the manatees is one of the most popular reasons to visit Crystal River. In the winter and early spring hundreds of manatees come to Three Sisters Springs to bask in the warm water. While many manatees leave during the warmer months, there are some that stay throughout the year. Crystal River is one of the few places in Florida where you can swim with manatees in the wild. They are curious animals and will frequently interact with swimmers, but it is important to learn manatee manners so that you do not scare or harm these protected animals.
We hope you get to enjoy Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park and Crystal River soon!