Kings Bay - Crystal River

A Natural Wonder In Distress

kings-bayThe Crystal River/King's Bay system is one of the most complex and unique natural resources in the State of Florida. This system derives its water source from the Crystal River Springs group, a complex network of over 30 major springs, which discharges an average of over 975 cubic feet per second of fresh water into King's Bay.

The Crystal River then emerges from the northwest end of King's Bay through saltmarsh estuaries and travels westward six miles into the Gulf of Mexico. This, combined with the Chassahowitzka, Homosassa, Hall's and Withlacoochee rivers feeds one of the largest remaining saltmarsh estuary systems left along the US gulf coast.

The freshwater discharge of the springs mixes with tidal waters from the Gulf of Mexico creating a diverse tapestry of changing ecosystems that supports a highly productive ecosystem utilized by a broad array of animals, plants, and salt and freshwater fish. The Crystal River and King's Bay is world renowned for its wintering population of the endangered Florida manatee. During peak periods the population has exceeded 250 animals that depend on the 72-degree spring discharge to keep warm during cold spells.

crystal-river-2For those who have known and interacted with the Crystal River system, there is the sad knowledge that it has declined from the crystal clear waters and clean white sand bottoms of the past. New visitors will still marvel at this amazing system, but then quickly develop a foreboding as deep as that of the area residents when they are told of its decline and see first hand the impacts that threaten it.

The decline of Crystal River/King's Bay is a result of impacts that have occurred over the last 50 years. The causes are both bold and subtle, but always share a common linkage to man and the development that travels with us.

While Crystal River/King's Bay is in distress, there is hope that through proper management, public education, and cultural change, we can halt its decline and perhaps even reverse the degradation. This website is dedicated to that cause and is the product of the many governmental agencies, community groups, residents, and visitors willing to aid in restoring the health of this unique Florida treasure. Please take the time to learn about Crystal River/ King's Bay, its history, current state, and its future. It is our hope that you will join us in protecting and restoring this wondrous product of nature.

Jurisdiction Over Crystal River/ King's Bay

There are four government agencies with direct jurisdiction over Crystal River/King's Bay and its spring-shed and many additional agencies that oversee specific issues, conditions, or activities or conduct research/restoration efforts. Provided below is a short description of each government entity.

City Of Crystal River

The City of Crystal River is an incorporated local government that wraps around the eastern and northern shores of Crystal River/King's Bay. The City controls all planning, zoning, and land use decisions, as well as implementation and enforcement of local codes within their jurisdiction. The City is governed by an elected board of five City Council members, a Mayor, the City Manager, and City staff.

Citrus County

Citrus County Government oversees all planning, zoning, and other land use decisions, as well as implementation of enforcement of local codes for the unincorporated areas of the County. This includes the western and southern shores of Crystal River/King's Bay, as well as those lands within the spring-shed that do not lie within either the City of Crystal River or the City of Inverness. An elected Board of Five County Commissioners, the County Administrator, and County staff governs the County.

Department of Environmental Protection

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is the lead state agency involved in water quality, pollution control, and resource recovery programs. The Department sets state water quality standards and has permit jurisdiction over point and non-point source discharges, certain dredge and fill activities, drinking water systems, power plant siting, and many construction activities conducted within waters of the state. The Department also interacts closely with other federal and state agencies, including the Southwest Florida Water Management District, on water-related matters.

Crystal River Buffer Preserve

yellow-flowersThe Division of State Lands oversees the management of state lands, including state parks. There are three significant holdings of this type in the Crystal River/King's Bay area. Much of the coastal uplands west of US-19 surrounding the Bay and River are publicly owned and managed as the Crystal River State (Buffer Preserve) Park. These lands were acquired to protect the health and integrity of the wetlands and surface waters contained in the St. Martin's Marsh Aquatic Preserve. The final tract emphasizes the long-term presence and use of the River by humans and that is the Crystal River State Archaeological Site.

U.S. Department Of Interior

The primary water-related functions performed by this agency involve the review of proposed activities which may impact threatened or endangered species, review of US Army Corps of Engineers permits for potential effects on fish and wildlife, and management of all federally-owned public lands. Within the department, the US Geological Survey conducts investigations concerning hydrology, hydrogeology, water use, and ground and surface water quality.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) manages and restores fish and wildlife populations and conducts research on the effects of pollution on those resources. The National Park Service maintains federal parks and sanctuaries, regulating multiple uses on these lands to achieve a balance of benefits for both man and wildlife. The department also oversees those requests and offshore activities associated with exploration and development on the outer continental shelf.

crwildlife-refugeWithin the Crystal River/King's Bay system, the USFWS manages the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, 20 small islands, and the surrounding surface waters and springs that are critical to the area's wildlife – in particular the Florida manatee.

In addition to the above listed agencies that have direct jurisdiction over the lands or waters within Crystal River/King's Bay and its spring-shed, there are a number of agencies which have jurisdiction over one or more areas of impact which involve the Crystal River/King's Bay system, its spring-shed, or natural resources within the system. Provided below is a short description of each government entity.

Many state agencies are involved in environmental regulation and resource management in the Crystal River/King's Bay watershed and estuary. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the lead state agency in the protection and management of Crystal River/King's Bay. Other relevant entities include the agencies listed below.

Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS)

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, through its Division of Agriculture and Environmental Services (AES) regulates the registration and use of pesticides, including the purchase of restricted pesticides, maintains registration and quality control of fertilizers, regulates pest control operations, mosquito control, and evaluates and manages environmental impacts associated with agrichemicals.

Withlacoochee State Forest

withlacoochee-forestThrough the Division of Forestry, the DACS is responsible for developing Best Management Practices (BMPs) to control forestry-related non-point source pollution. The Division of Forestry is also responsible for statewide implementation of BMPs and for monitoring public and private forestry operations to determine BMP compliance and effectiveness. Florida's State Forests and other parcels of public land are managed by the Division of Forestry.

The Division of Plant Industry is responsible for, among other duties, regulating the movement of noxious weeds and, with input from the Endangered Plant Advisory Council, protecting endangered, threatened or commercially exploited plant species.

The Office of Water Policy Coordination is responsible for participating in water policy issues to ensure the availability of an adequate supply and quality of water for the production of food and fiber. The office cooperates with agencies and agricultural producers to make available streamlined agricultural regulatory processes and voluntary, incentive-based, acceptable alternatives and agricultural BMPs consistent with the sustainability of agriculture and resource conservation. The office provides assistance to Soil and Water Conservation Districts, including the Tampa and the Manatee River Districts, in carrying out conservation activities at the local and watershed level, and providing improved local delivery of resource management services to agricultural producers. The office facilitates the participation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts in water-related issues at the county or watershed level.

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC)

fishThe Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission has responsibility for conserving the state's freshwater aquatic life, marine life, and wild animal life all under a single agency. The Florida Marine Research Institute (FMFI), the Office of Fisheries Management and Assistance Services (OFMAS) and the Bureau of Protected Species Management are all sub-agencies with the FFWCC.

The FMFI conducts studies throughout the Crystal River/King's Bay with respect to habitat quality (e.g., marsh and seagrass habitats), habitat utilization and value with respect to important fisheries, and fish population dynamics and stock assessment.

eagleThe Bureau of Protected Species Management, with responsibility for managing imperiled marine life, is part of the FFWCC's Office of Environmental Services. The Endangered Species Section, which covers all other Florida protected wildlife, is part of the new agency's Division of Wildlife.

The FFWCC Enforcement Section is charged with enforcing saltwater, freshwater, and wildlife laws. They also serve as the enforcement agency for the Florida Endangered and Threatened Species Act and the Oil Spill Prevention and Pollution Control Act, and enforces state motorboat laws and the saltwater fisheries regulations of the Commission.

Department of Health

The Department of Health is responsible for the permitting of septic systems and other on-site disposal systems (OSDS) through its county health departments.

Department of Transportation

The Department of Transportation's Project Development and Environmental offices assist in the design, review, and permitting of road and right-of-way projects in the Crystal River/King's Bay region.

gulf-beachFlorida Sea Grant Program

The Florida Sea Grant Program is supported by awards from the Office of Sea Grant National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under provisions of the National Sea Grant College and Programs Act of 1966. The Florida Sea Grant Program has three major components: applied marine research, education, and advisory services (through local marine extension agents).

Florida Sea Grant provides scientific research and habitat-related information that is useful in the management of Crystal River/King's Bay natural resources.

State Affiliated Agencies

Two state affiliated agencies exist that are involved in the implementation of the Crystal River/King's Bay Surface Water Improvement Management plan (SWIM). These agencies are the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council

The Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council is the Regional Planning Agency designated in Section 186.505 of the Florida Statutes. It performs the responsibilities described in that section and the Regional Planning Agency roles assigned in Section 380.05, F.S. (Resource Planning Committees, DRI reviews and Ch. 163, Local Plan Reviews).

Southwest Florida Water Management District

The Southwest Florida Water Management District is responsible for performing duties assigned under Ch. 373, F.S., as well as duties delegated through FDEP for Ch. 253 and 403, F.S., and for local plan review (Ch. 163, F.S.).


Federal jurisdiction in Crystal River/King's Bay involves the regulatory responsibilities of the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US. Environmental Protection Agency, the US Coast Guard, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US. Department of Interior (which coordinates its many agriculture-related activities with those of the Florida Department of Agriculture and consumer Services). Their main regulatory functions include overseeing dredge and fill activities, maintaining navigability of the waters of the United States, overseeing cleanup following pollution spills, protecting endangered species, protecting overall environmental quality, and managing offshore activities. These agencies, in conjunction with the US Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also contribute to the collection of technical data concerning Crystal River/King's Bay and its watershed.

US Army Corps of Engineers

The US Army Corps of Engineers is concerned with all activities which affect navigable waters of the United States, particularly those involving construction of structures and dredging and filling in navigable waters. The Corps is also involved in permitting the placement of dredge and fill material into navigable waters and adjacent wetlands, and in funding aquatic plant control in navigable and public waters.

US Environmental Protection Agency

The US Environmental Protection Agency is the primary federal agency responsible for water quality protection. The agency oversees hazardous waste cleanups, protection of public drinking water systems, all point source pollutant discharges into waters of the United States (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits), and the protection and restoration of surface and groundwater. The agency also reviews Corps of Engineers permit activities, sets minimum quality standards, and sets guidelines for state environmental programs. EPA also funds sewerage facilities' studies through Regional Planning Councils and system improvements through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

coast-guardUS Coast Guard

The US Coast Guard is the primary federal agency entrusted with marine law enforcement. The Guard's mission also includes hazardous materials cleanups, search and rescue, buoy replacement, vessel safety inspection, and right-of-way clearance on navigable waterways.

caveUS Department of Commerce

Within the Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which includes the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center, is a scientific and data collection agency which assimilates oceanographic and meteorological information in the form of maps, charts, interpretive reports, and other documents. The National Marine Fisheries Service administers NOAA's program to manage living marine resources for commercial and recreational use. It supports fisheries management operations, international fisheries affairs, fishery development, trade, and industry assistance activities, habitat conservation activities, and scientific and technical aspects of NOAA's marine fisheries resources programs.

  • Learn about the First Magnitude Springs of Florida
  • Learn about Florida's Springs
  • View Citrus County's Comprehensive Plan
  • View Citrus County's Manatee Protection Plan
  • Learn about the natural habitats found in Citrus County
  • Read the Citrus County Environmental Homeowner's Guide