My wife and I were hoping to kayak with some manatees and we had heard that the Crystal River/Homosassa Springs area would be a place where we could probably see some of these "sea cows". They are drawn to the warmer water(72 degrees) of the numerous springs in the area.
We decided to take our tent and camp for a night, and after doing a little research on the net, we found an RV park(Natures Resort) that also had tent sites located on the Halls River close to the Homosassa River. It seemed a little pricey, $25 to camp and $6.50 to use their launch site, but it was a nice RV park and their launch site was the closet we could find to the headwaters of the Homosassa. We set up camp, had lunch, and then put the kayaks in and preceded down the Halls River 1/4 mi to the Homosassa River turned left and went up the Homosassa about 3/4 of a mile to its headwaters.
At first I thought we were going to be disappointed, but as we got further upstream we started to see a few anchored pontoon and small flat bottom boats with some people swimming, some snorkeling, and the majority just watching. It was really a thrill for both of us to be paddling with the manatees and the spring water is so clear that it's real easy to see them.
However as I was drifting along over the top of one big bruiser he decided to come up for air and I couldn't quite get out of his way. When he bumped into my kayak he let me know that he didn't like it one bit, and with one big slap of his tail I found myself soaking wet and hanging on to my kayak for dear life. Luckily I didn't tip over and my digital camera didn't get wet. It's one dousing I won't soon forget.
We watched them for about 45 minutes and then headed back. The whole trip took about 2- 2 1/2 hours. There were a lot of power boats in the area, but all of them went very slow to protect the manatees. If I had to do this trip over again, I probably would not do the camping as I my home base is only about 2 hours away and it went down to about 35 degrees that night.
There are many motels, restaurants, and fast food places in the area.
Tent camping $25
Homosassa Springs in on Rt 98 about an hour north on Tampa. Natures Resort is on West Halls River Rd about 3 1/2 miles west of Rt 98.