Our thanks to fellow cruisers Todd and Branda Lanning for a superb report on this Big Bend River. Moving north from Anclote Key, Crystal River is really the first of the Big Bend stream really suitable for cruising size craft. There is Homosassa River to the south, BUT iffy depths here and the lack of facilities for vessels over 30 feet usually entice us to continue on to Crystal River.
Good Morning Claiborne,
As per your request here is the latest & greatest on Crystal River, FL. Life’s2Short had a wonderful 3 days in the fresh waters of Kings Bay, always nice to rinse off the salt that one accumulates as they cruise north & south along the gulf coast! This is our fourth time up to Crystal River and has become one of our favorite west coast stops. We anchored in a new spot this time that is even better protected than the main waters of Kings Bay, the new anchorage is on east and then south of the main anchorage on the backside of the island located in Kings Bay. We did dinghy over to Pete’s Pier to take a look around and get some ice. Nothing has changed over there, still a pretty run down marina with no apparent need to fix anything up. I’m not badmouthing the marina as it’s still a good place to go if you need a slip, however we much prefer anchoring out in this wonderful area!
Depths in the channel leading into the river seem to have remained steady since we were last here in 2009. All depths listed below are actual water depths and with the “Shell Island” tide station showing 1 foot above low tide. We found that you need to approach the outside markers on a due west-to-east line when you are within a 1/2 mile of markers #1 & #2, depths on this line are all about 7 to 8 feet deep. We hugged the green #1 marker as we came in and never saw less than 8 feet between #1 & #2. Only two areas we found that were somewhat skinny. Between markers #5 & #6 we registered an actual depth of 6.5 feet and then again around Shell Island we found 6 feet of actual depth. We also tended to hold to the green markers before getting to Shell Island. The key to getting through the Shell Island area is to hang close to Shell Island when you pass by. After Shell Island the depths are fine and you can relax for the 6 miles on up this beautiful river, getting pushed along with the incoming tide!
I know many people are leery about heading up this river because of depth. Life’s2Short draws 4 feet so we had no issues whatsoever. If I was taking in a 5′ draft boat I would wait until 1/2 tide rising, and I would have no issue taking in a 6 foot draft boat if I went at high tide.
This area is truly a gem on the west coast of Florida and should not be missed if you have the time as you are headed up or down the coast!
Todd & Brenda Lanning
1985 40′ Oceania Trawler