Located 30 miles northeast of Tampa, the city of Crystal Springs is best known for its clear spring waters, which provide more than 40 million gallons of fresh water daily to the area. The city, part of Pasco County, has only 1,175 residents, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Visitors flock to Crystal Springs to experience the city's ecosystem and to lounge in the peaceful rural setting, where camping and golf provide the entertainment.
Crystal Springs Preserve
This 52-acre aquatic sanctuary preserves Florida's natural environment and offers visitors a memorable learning experience. The Crystal Springs system discharges 40 million gallons of crystal-clear water each day into a large pond to provide a great habitat for wildlife, and the preserve offers entertaining environmental education through hands-on activities, including some designed for groups. Swimming in the clear water is a popular activity, as are hiking and biking on miles of wooded trails. Viewing the wildlife, including butterflies in the garden area, is the highlight of any visit to the preserve. The nature center is a 4,000-square-foot facility that displays several species of amphibians and reptiles that are native to the area. The preserve offers educational programs to school and youth groups and also has summer camps for kids.
Hillsborough River Corridor
The upper Hillsborough River starts at Crystal Springs, where the spring water pours into the dark river water from Green Swamp. The waters are known for their great beauty, and they also have rapids, a rarity in Florida waters. The Tampa Tribune called it one of the state's most scenic rivers. The waters are a top destination for kayakers and canoeists. A 34-mile canoe run starts at Crystal Springs and takes paddlers southwest to Tampa's Rowlett Park. The waters are home to many alligators and birds, including the great blue heron, the white ibis, the osprey and the hawk. The spring water's clarity also makes it a key destination for scuba divers.
For 10 days each March, the area becomes awash in strawberries, an important crop for Pasco County. Located 15 miles south of Crystal Springs, Plant City features the annual Florida Strawberry Festival. This festival brings entertainment to the area with carnival rides, competitions, a beauty pageant and live entertainment. Entertainers often are well-known musicians. In 2010, the festival featured Roy Clark, Michael W. Smith, Mel Tellis, Josh Turner, Debbie Reynolds, Bill Engvall, Tracy Lawrence, REO Speedwagon and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In addition to entertainment, the festival immerses visitors in the story of the strawberry through agricultural exhibits and lots of strawberry-packed treats. The event has been an area tradition since 1930, and the fair committee says it ranks as one of the top 50 fairs in North America.
Crystal Springs Roller Rink
Since 1939, this old-fashioned roller rink has been a key asset to the area. The building, with an old tin roof and no-frills interior, offers public skating and also hosts parties and other private events. A snack bar provides food at this popular weekend destination. It is open from 8 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. In the center of the rink is a rope that novice skaters can use to help them learn. The rink is located on the shores of the Hillsborough River.
- Photo Credit canoe image by EW CHEE GUAN from Fotolia.com