Crystal River Archaeological State Park - Orlando / Florida Guide
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When we visited the Crystal River preserve state park we took the Heritage- Eco boat tour and whilst on the tour our guide pointed out The Crystal River Archaeological State Park and museum so we decided to stop by for a visit.
In order to reach the State Park you will need to drive north on US Highway 19. Approximately 2 miles from the centre of Crystal River you will reach State Park Street which is signposted to the state park. Travel approximately a mile then turn left onto Museum Pointe, also signposted, this takes you straight into the State Park. Entrance to the State Park and museum is three dollars per car (Nov 2015) and is an honour based system where you will place your money into an envelope and post the envelope into a box, you will therefore need some change.
The car park was virtually empty when we arrived a small group of people were leaving the museum but other than ourselves there were no other tourists around, it was very, very quiet. We were greeted by one of the museum volunteers who told us a little bit about the park and about the museum itself. The museum describes itself as a pre-Columbian ceremonial Indian mound complex and our volunteer was obviously both knowledgeable and passionate about the rituals of the ancient river dwellers, she was very interested to hear that the area of the UK. from which we hail is home to similar ancient burial sites, Stonehenge and Avebury being the most well known, both places she had visited, and we spent a few moments exchanging pleasantries about the area before she encouraged us to take a walk around the museum and the mounds outside.
The museum is only small there are various exhibits that depict different cultural periods in trade and technologies of the area and goes on to compare them with other cultures in the Americas, these are mostly ancient pots and weapons and there are some modern paintings which suggest how the ancient tribes may have lived. There is also an informative video which runs on a loop approximately eight minutes long and tells the story of the temple mounds and the burial mounds situated outside of the museum.
Native Americans lived in the Crystal River area until about 500 years ago and it was they who built the ceremonial mound complex which is now the Crystal River archaeological state park. It is thought that throughout the sites' occupation the ceremonies that occurred here evolved as the population increased and was subjected to outside influences from other areas of the Americas, nevertheless the river dwellers retained a lot of their own customs and ceremonies. Archaeological evidence suggests influence of at least three cultural periods at the Crystal River site.
Strolling around the burial mound and the Temple Mound complex is a kin to walking in a pleasant park with a landscape that is suggestive of a southern plantation, with large trees and lots of Spanish moss, it took me right back to Gone With the Wind and some of the scenes at the Twelve Oaks Party!
Most of the burial mounds are now nothing more than large, grassy hillocks. The Temple Mound is the largest of the mounds within the park and if you have the energy to climb the wooden stairs to the summit you will be rewarded by beautiful views of the Crystal River area and a bench to sit on!
It took us only about an hour to visit the museum and the surrounding grounds, however, if you have time to spare take a picnic, there are some picnic tables down by the river where you can enjoy the cool breezes from the water and the beautiful scenery on offer.
Unless ancient civilisations are your absolute passion then I would not make a special trip to this park, nevertheless if you are in the area it is a pleasant way to pass an hour or so.
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